The National Basketball Association (NBA) is probably and not even arguably the biggest basketball competition in the world. The league is made up of 30 teams, with 29 in the United States of America and 1 team from Canada, the Toronto Raptors who, despite all odds went on to win the championship in 2019 for the first time ever defeating Golden State Warriors in the Finals.
Over the years the NBA league has attracted players and fans from across the world as it’s becomes more and more interesting but still many people and some fans don’t understand how the NBA playoffs actually work.
The playoffs is a tournament played at the end of the season to determine which team eventually lifts the NBA title.
Number of Teams in NBA Playoffs
The NBA league is always divided into two conferences consisting of 15 teams each, the Eastern conference which has teams like Brooklyn nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic and the Western conference including teams like Los Angeles Lakers, Golden state warriors, Portland Trailblazers, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix suns, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz. Eight best teams from each conference qualify to compete in the NBA playoffs making the total number of teams in the playoffs to be 16 teams.
Teams in each conference are ranked by their performance in a regular season. The top six teams are given direct qualification to the play offs whilst the seventh to 10th teams in each conference compete for the remaining two spots in the playoffs in a tournament called play-in tournament.
Play In Tournament
The play-in tournament is a new rule that will be put into practice for the first time in 2021. The seventh and the eighth playoff spots will be competed in a play-in tournament by teams ranked seventh to 10th in each conference.
The tournament will be an elimination process that will see the seventh ranked team face the eighth placed team and the winner handed the seventh playoff spot in their conference. The ninth placed team will then play the 10th ranked team and the looser is eliminated, the winner will play the looser of the first game and whoever wins will be handed the eighth playoff spot in their conference.
The NBA Playoffs system
The NBA playoffs are divided into four rounds. Each round has every team match up and play best of seven elimination format. This means two teams play each other up to 7 games with the team that acquires 4 wins progressing and the other team eliminated from the playoffs.
In terms of who plays who, the first ranked team in each conference face the eighth ranked team. Second ranked team plays seventh ranked team, third placed team face the fifth and the fourth best team in each conference play the fifth placed team.
The second round of the playoffs is what is referred to as the conference semifinals which draws four teams from each conference, and the third round is the conference finals where each conference has two teams each competing for the NBA Finals spot. The winner of each conference’s finals will face each other to determine the NBA champions, this explains why every year the NBA finals is played by two teams from different conference.
This year, the NBA playoffs started on 22nd May and is running for two months.
Most successful Teams in NBA Playoffs
The Los Angeles Lakers are the most successful team in the entire NBA history having made into 31 NBA finals and win a record 16 NBA finals with their last title coming just a year ago in the 2020 NBA finals.
The Lakers have also won a record 31 conference titles, the yellow and purples also boast of a record 26 Hall of Famers including arguably the best NBA players of all time – LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain and the most recent inductee the late Kobe Bryant. Lakers also have the most playoffs appearance compared to any other NBA teams.
Other successful teams in the NBA Playoffs include, Boston Celtics who have been into 21 NBA finals winning 17 of them, the easterners also have 21 conference titles.
Golden state warriors have made a total of 11 NBA finals winning in six of them, they are also regarded as one of the most successful teams in the recent years winning three NBA titles in just four years between 2015 and 2018.
Easterners Chicago Bulls have 6 titles in their name in 6 NBA finals, they hold the record for 100% win record in NBA finals for teams that have more than two NBA titles. Other teams that have made remarkable performance in the NBA Playoffs include San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers who have won five and three NBA titles respectively