2021 NBA Play-In Tournament


Jared Goodman

This season, the NBA introduced a change to the traditional playoffs. This change creates a tournament between the teams who finished 7th-10th in each conference to determine who will be the 7th and 8th seed in each side of the playoff bracket. In short, the teams with the 7th and 8th best record will play, and the winner is awarded the 7 seed in the playoffs. The teams with the 9th and 10th best record will also face off, with the loser being eliminated and the winner facing the loser of the 7/8 game. The winner of that would become the 8th, and final, seed in the playoffs, while the loser is sent packing.


The play-in tournament provides an interesting change to the playoff format that has been in place for quite some time. It creates the best possible matchups for the first round of the playoffs and makes these teams earn their spot in the playoffs in a high pressure game. Many fans have adapted quickly and are in favor of this rule change. However, not all players are happy with the addition of the play-in tournament.


4 time NBA champion, LeBron James, expressed his dismay with the addition during one of his post-game conferences: “Whoever came up with [the play-in tournament] needs to be fired.” James and the Lakers finished 7th in the Western Conference and are now forced to earn their way into the playoffs by winning one of two games. 


In the Eastern Conference, the (7) Celtics will face the (8) Wizards to see who will face the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, while the (9) Pacers will play the (10) Hornets in an elimination game to earn their right to play for the 8th seed. This will definitely be an exciting tournament and the winners will have tough matchups against two of the best teams in the entire NBA.


In the Western Conference, the (7) Lakers are tasked with defeating the (8) Warriors for a chance to face the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The 9/10 game in the West features the (9) Grizzlies and the (10) Spurs in an elimination game. The winner of that game and the loser of the 7/8 game will face the Utah Jazz in the first round.


Overall, this addition to the post-season will be enjoyable for fans around the country, while the players will be locked in on securing a spot in the playoffs. Unlike the playoffs, the play-in tournament only includes one game per matchup, which adds a great deal of pressure to all teams.