What you Need to Know About the Playoffs


If you haven’t followed basketball at all, then the playoffs are probably a mystery to you. Out of context, the games look like just that: games. There is, however, a certain order to them that must be observed if you’re to understand how the series is progressing, and most importantly, who has a chance at moving on to the finals.

Understanding the Playoffs Format

First and foremost, you need to know that the NBA playoffs are a best of seven elimination conference, split into two parts and encompassing a total of sixteen different teams:

Eastern Conference

  • Boston Celtics
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Washington Wizards
  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Chicago Bulls

Western Conference

  • Golden State Warriors
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Houston Rockets
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Utah Jazz
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Portland Trail Blazers

The competition between these conferences (they were originally called divisions, prior to 1970), will ultimately produce two winners, ending in the NBA finals, which lead to an ultimate victor.

Formula Changes

During September of 2015, chances were announced by the NBA regarding the formula being used to determine the NBA Playoffs format. According to this format, the top 8 teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference will be ranked in order according to the following:

  • Win-Loss Records
  • Quality for Playoffs

In addition to that, you have changed to the tie-break criteria which state that head to head between tied teams is the first tie-breaker, and the second is whether the team won its division championship. Division winners can be determined by looking at the brackets and checking the bolded names.

Bracket Organizations

The information stated above is used to create a bracket, which will determine the match-ups of each team during the course of the series. Unlike in other leagues (NFL and MLS), the brackets are fixed once the playoffs start. They are never re-seeded, and the first round will consist of four match-ups, based on the seedings, and the four winners move on to the second round, also known as the conference semifinals.

The progression continues until two winners advance to the third round, also known as the conference finals. The winners from each conference (East and West) will finally progress to the NBA finals, at which time it would be appropriate to break out the popcorn.

Keeping Track of your Teams

The state of the playoffs is well tracked, as you will find out, and you can use the internet as a valuable resource for determining who is moving forward, and who will be left behind as the playoffs proceed. Official services, such as ESPN will be of great help to you, and now that you know the basic format of the playoffs, they will be incredibly easy for you to understand! Keep watching the playoffs this year, learn the players, and place your bets. This year, as with any year, it’s going to be awesome.


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