2024 NBA play-in: Schedule, how does it work, which teams are in, how to watch

The NBA play-in is relatively new — it just started after the pandemic — but it’s become a popular and established part of the NBA calendar. Still, there are a lot of questions, including how the whole thing works and who will be in it in 2024?

Let’s break it all down.

What is the play-in?

A handful of years ago, at the end of the last decade, the focus of fans for many teams approaching the end of the season was on tanking — was their team rolling out a roster that would lose enough games and get the team a higher draft pick. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hated the idea of fans rooting for their team to lose, he wanted to change the narrative and create drama and jeopardy for teams at the back end of the playoff chase.

The NBA did it with the play-in — seeds No. 7 and 8 no longer automatically make the playoffs, and seeds No. 9 and 10 can earn their way in.

How does the play-in work?

It’s a pretty straightforward way to fill the final two seeds in the NBA playoffs.

• Regular season seeds No. 7 and 8 play a single game, with the winner of that game going straight to the playoffs as the No. 7 seed (to face the No. 2 seed).

• Regular season seeds Nos. 9 and 10 play a single-elimination game, from which the loser is out and goes home.

• The winner of the 9/10 game and the loser of the 7/8 game play a single elimination game to advance to the playoffs as the No. 8 seed (to face the No. 1 seed). The loser of this final play-in game is done for the season.

This means there is an incentive to win games and be a 7/8 seed in the regular season — you only need to win one of two games to make the playoffs. Still, teams in the 9/10 seed have a chance and teams push to get those spots.

Has any team reached the NBA Finals out of the play-in?

Yes, just last season the Miami Heat were the No. 7 seed, lost the first play-in game to Atlanta, then had to come from behind in the final play-in game to beat Chicago and advance as the No. 8 seed. Once in the playoffs Miami beat Milwaukee, New York and Boston to advance to the NBA Finals.

Also last season, the No. 7 seed Lakers came out of the play-in and reached the Western Conference Finals, only to fall to eventual champion Denver in a sweep.

Which teams are in the 2024 NBA play-in tournament?

Some of the biggest brands and stars in the sport are in the play-in this year: LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, Zion Williamson of New Orleans, and Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers among them.

Let’s break it down by conference and look at the schedule

Eastern Conference play in schedule, where to watch

Wednesday, April 17

• 7/8 Game: Miami at Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
• 9/10 Game: Atlanta at Chicago (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Friday, April 19

• Winner 9/10 at loser 7/8 (TBD, ESPN)

Western Conference play in schedule, where to watch

Tuesday, April 16

• 7/8 Game: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT)

• 9/10 Game: Golden State at Sacramento (10 p.m. ET, TNT)

Friday, April 19

• Winner 9/10 at loser 7/8 (TBD, TNT)

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