NBA Playoffs Explained

The NBA Playoffs are the finale to the long NBA season. Here names are made, basketball matters and titles are won. For those familiar with other American sports the playoffs are simple to understand. But for those who are not, or who are just looking for a refresher this is the guide to the NBA Playoffs.

At the end of the long NBA schedule (explained here) where teams lie in the NBA standings (explained here) really matters. The top 8 teams with the best record from each conference advance into the Playoffs. The Playoff bracket is split into two sides, East and West, meaning the NBA Finals are contested between the winners of the West and the winners of the East. This can be seen below (click image to enlarge).

Playoff Bracket
NBA Playoff Bracket

Playoff seedings are the first thing that should be discussed however. Of the 8 teams that advance from each conference the teams with the best records will play the teams with the worst records, whilst also gaining Home Court Advantage over the other. So the 1st seed will play the 8th seed, so for example in lat years first round the Indiana Pacers (55-26) faced the Atlanta Hawks (37-44). The 2nd seed then plays the 7th seed, the 3rd seed the 6th seed and the 4th seed plays the 5th seed.

Every Playoff series is best of seven games. They are played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format meaning that the team with home court hosts games 1,2, 5 and 7 (5/7 only if needed) whilst the team without hosts the others. This is meant to ensure that the team with home court advantage actually has some advantage.

The winners of the first round series advance to the Conference Semi-Finals, with the winners of the seed 1-8 matchup facing the winners of the 4-5 matchup. The winners of the 2-7 matchup facing the winners of the 3-6 matchup. The winners of these advance to play each other in the Conference Finals, the winner of which wins the Conference Title and advances to the NBA Finals.

Heat Conference Champs 2014
Miami Heat Eastern Conference Champs 2014

The two Conference champions then move onto the NBA Finals. The Finals again consists of seven games in a 2-2-1-1-1 format. The winner of this series is crowned NBA Champions and lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The player with most impact in the series wins Finals MVP and is awarded the Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy.

The main criticism of the current Playoffs format is that teams from the weaker Eastern Conference are making the Playoffs whilst teams with better records in the Western Conference are missing out.

Next: NBA Season Awards Explained

If you have any further questions let me know in the comments below or email/tweet me from the links on the contact page.


6 thoughts on “NBA Playoffs Explained

    1. Thanks mate I really appreciate that. In terms of the eight teams that make the playoffs from each conference, there are a number of reasons why. There are 15 teams in each conference, so the eight with the best record go through. Eight is half of the conference so when both conferences are factored in to the playoffs it is half the NBA, the remaining 14 teams go into the draft lottery (explained in another post). 8 teams from each conference also means that there are four rounds in the playoffs, which seems about the right amount as any more would become too long and any less and it would become too short. Hope this helps.


      1. Cheers mate, I was thinking it’s like the nfl and there was wildcards 😅
        Have you got the link for the draft post?


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