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The NBA playoffs begin on April 20, but before we get to that action, eight teams will compete in the Play-In Tournament to earn the last two postseason spots in each conference. While there was some early criticism of the Play-In, even from players, it's hard to argue against the effectiveness of it. Not only did it make games in March and April more intriguing as seeding was on the line, it gave teams further down in the standings a real opportunity to nab a postseason spot. And it's not like theses teams are just easy first-round exits, either. We've already seen a team from the Play-In make a deep run in the playoffs, as the Miami Heat lost its first Play-In game last season, then was in a win or go home situation against the Bulls before going on one of the most epic postseason runs to the NBA Finals that we've ever seen. 

We'll have to see if another team from the Play-In Tournament can pull off what the Heat did last year, perhaps Miami could even recapture that magic, but until then here's a rundown on all the things to know about the Play-In Tournament:

What is the Play-In Tournament?

The Play-In is the round before the playoffs where the teams seeded No. 8 through No. 10 compete for the final two postseason berths in the Western and Eastern Conference. The Board of Governors and the player's union approved the addition of the Play-In Tournament in June 2020, as a way to make games in March and April more meaningful as the chance to make the playoffs is heightened even if you sit further down in the conference standings. The first Play-In happened during the 2020 Orlando bubble, and the league has implemented it every season since. 

How does it work?

The teams that finish between No. 7 and No. 10 in their respective conferences go through the Play-In round, where the No. 7 and No. 8 team face each other, while the No. 9 and No. 10 teams face off. The winner of the 7/8 matchup secures the No. 7 spot in their conference, while the loser of that game plays the winner of the 9/10 matchup, which decides who will get the No. 8 spot. The loser of the 9/10 game is also eliminated, ending their season. The higher seed hosts each game, so the loser of the 7/8 matchup would host whichever team wins the 9/10 matchup.

What's the Play-In Tournament schedule?

Tuesday, April 16

Wednesday, April 17

Friday, April 19

  • East 7/8 vs. East 9/10, Time TBD
  • West 7/8 vs. West 9/10, Time TBD

Typically, both of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchups are on Tuesday in the Play-In Tournament. However, the NBA adjusted the schedule this season as the 76ers were unable to host a game on Tuesday night due to a scheduling conflict with the NHL's Flyers.

How do I watch the Play-In Tournament?

Here's a breakdown of how the first slate of games will be scheduled. The winners will then play on April 19 with the East game on ESPN and the West game on TNT.

  • Pelicans vs. Lakers -- TV channel: TNT | Live stream: TNT app
  • Kings vs. Warriors -- TV channel: TNT | Live stream: TNT app
  • 76ers vs. Heat -- TV channel: ESPN | Live stream: fubo (try for free)
  • Bulls vs. Hawks -- TV channel: ESPN | Live streamfubo (try for free)