With only a few games left in the 2021-22 NBA regular season, fans are already projecting the possible routes of their teams in the postseason. Except for those franchises who have already been eliminated from playoff contention, of course.

Even though LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will be a notable absence, the knockout stage of the season will be a must-watch, with many teams heading into the playoffs as legit contenders.

The National Basketball Association, however, introduced a significant change to its traditional playoffs by creating the Play-In Tournament. Here, find out what's the difference between the Play-In and the Playoffs.

NBA postseason explained: What is the Play-In Tournament?

The Play-In Tournament is part of the postseason but it precedes the first round of the playoffs. This idea was implemented for the Orlando bubble in 2020 under the strange circumstances of the pandemic-shortened season and established itself as an official part of the postseason the following campaign.

This has changed the traditional playoff system by which the first eight teams in each conference advanced to the playoffs. The Play-In Tournament involves teams that finished from 7th to 10th in each conference, while the first six of the East and West advance directly to the playoffs.

  • Qualify directly for the playoffs: 1st to 6th of each conference
  • Take part in Play-In Tournament: 7th to 10th of each conference

How does the NBA Play-In Tournament work?

The Play-In Tournament consists of single-game playoff ties for a place in the playoffs, with the 7th and 8th seeds up for grabs. Once the regular season concludes, the team with the 7th highest percentage in each conference hosts the team with the 8th best record. The winner claims the 7th seed and advances to the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the 9th best record in each conference hosts the team with the 10th highest winning percentage. The winner of this game faces the loser of the 7-8 game for the 8th seed and final ticket to the playoffs.

  • 7th place vs. 8th place: Winner advances to playoffs with 7th seed
  • Loser 7-8 vs. Winner 9-10: Winner advances to playoffs with 8th seed

NBA Play-In Tournament Explained: Bracket

The Play-In Tournament of the 2021-22 NBA season will take place on April 12-15, while the playoffs get underway on April 16. This is what the NBA postseason bracket looks like with the Play-In: