Although this elimination tournament’s system has changed multiple times over the years since its inception in 1946, the NBA playoffs are currently a best-of-seven tournament held to determine which teams make it into the NBA final.

An overview

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is essentially made up of two conferences: East and West. Both the East and West Conferences are made up of three divisions. The Eastern Conference has the Atlantic Division, Central Division, and the Southeast Division. The Western Conference is made up of the Northwest Division, Pacific Division, and the Southwest Division.  

Each team is calculated as to where they stand in their division on how they played throughout the regular season based on wins and are seeded as such.

The first round of the playoffs has the top-seeded eight teams from each conference play each other with the top seed (1) playing the lowest seed (8), 5th seed versus 4th seed, etc. This is done to ensure the best seeds aren’t playing each other early on in the finals. This is why knowing the teams of each division and their performances during the regular season can help you increase your NBA playoff odds if you pay attention to the stats throughout the year.

Once the first round is determined, the playoffs move onto the Conference Semi-Finals which pits the remaining four teams against each other, again in the same seeding format. Once these finals are decided, it is time for the Conference Finals, which will leave one team from each conference left for the NBA Finals.

Again, whichever team makes it to the finals has to win the best of seven games in order to win the title.

Secured games (clinched)

When a team has clinched, it means that they have played well enough throughout the season to secure a spot in the playoffs no matter who wins for the rest of the season. Of course, this means that every team wants to improve their stats to gain a higher seed. Whoever finishes with the most wins out of both conferences at the end of the regular season clinches home-court advantage for the entire playoffs, while the highest winners of the opposing conference win home-court advantage during the conference playoffs. For example, in the 2020-2021 season, Utah Jazz finished top of the Western Conference with 52 wins while the Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia 76ers finished with 49 wins. So Utah Jazz got the home-court advantage clinch for the entire playoffs (until they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the Conference Semifinals).

Some notable NBA playoff final events include the New York Knicks in 1999 who were seeded 8th when they entered the first round of the finals and ended up winning against fellow Eastern Conference 1st seeded team Miami heat 2-3 in the first round.

In 2017 the Golden State Warriors won all their games in the finals except for one against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but still won 4-1, with a total win in the playoffs standing at 16-1. 

The Sacramento Kings have not made the playoffs since the 2005-2006 season giving them the biggest play drought to date. The Los Angeles Lakers have had the most playoff appearances so far with 63 appearances and 17 wins since 1949. This record championship is tied with the Boston Celtics who have also won 17 since 1957.

So there is some insight into the NBA playoffs. The game is intriguing as it is exciting as the sport does change over the years, with different rosters, rules changed and teams added.    

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