There’s no question the NBA play-in tournament has been a successful addition to the league’s postseason format. After experimenting with the idea during the bubble in 2020, the NBA instituted the play-in tournament to determine the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in each conference ahead of the 2021 playoffs. The play-in tournament has given us a few memorable moments in first few years, and this season could be the best one yet with so much parity throughout the standings.
So much is still at stake as the NBA hits the stretch run of regular season. The last two secured seeds in the Western Conference playoffs — the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds — are still at stake, with four teams fighting for positioning. The Eastern Conference standings have more separation at the top with the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers leading the way, but the play-in standings are fully bunched up.
Here’s how the 2023 NBA play-in tournament works, featuring key dates and an updated look at the standings.
NBA play-in tournament rules and bracket
The NBA play-in tournament determines the last two seeds in the playoffs in each conference. The top-six finishers in each conference automatically qualify for the NBA Playoffs. The teams that finish No. 7, No. 8, No. 9, and No. 10 in each conference need to go through the play-in tournament to make the playoffs.
Here’s how it works:
- No. 7 plays No. 8. The winner gets the No. 7 seed in the playoffs, and thus the matchup with the No. 2 seed.
- The No. 9 plays No. 10. The loser is eliminated and their season is over.
- The winner of the 9-10 game and the loser of the 7-8 game then play. The winner gets the No. 8 seed in the playoffs, while the loser’s season is over.
2023 NBA play-in tournament schedule and dates
Game 1: Atlanta Hawks (East No. 8) at Miami Heat (East No. 7)
Game 2: West No. 7 vs. West No. 8
Game 1: Chicago Bulls (East No. 10) at Toronto Raptors (East No. 9)
Game 2: West No. 9 vs. West No. 10
Game 1: East 7/8 loser vs. East 9/10 winner
Game 2: West 7/8 loser vs. West 9/10 winner
Does a team miss the NBA draft lottery if they make the play-in tournament?
Teams that don’t make the NBA Playoffs are in the draft lottery. If a team makes the play-in tournament but does not qualify for the playoffs, then their pick is in the lottery.
Find updated NBA lottery standings at Tankathon.
NBA play-in race standings
Updated morning of April 8
As noted above, the play-in tournament is set in the Eastern Conference.
Here are how things stand in the Western Conference:
Dallas was eliminated with their loss Friday night, and the Thunder are now locked into the tenth seed. Seeds five through nine are all on the line as we head into the final weekend of the season.