How does the NBA Play In Tournament work? 2021 basketball competition explained, how to watch in UK, and teams

Promising ‘exciting match ups’ between ‘teams on the rise’, the State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament is a new fixture on the basketball calendar for 2021

Teams including the Golden State Warriors, the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics will compete for playoff places in the Play-In Tournament (Photos: Getty Images)

Basketball fans are gearing up for another eventful postseason, as the NBA playoffs get underway later this week (22 May).

However, before then, there’s another exciting development in the sport.

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This year sees the introduction of the State Farm NBA Play-In Tournament, a new fixture in the basketball calendar that is designed to showcase “teams on the rise”, and pit underdogs against one another for exciting match ups that culminate in coveted playoff places.

But how does it all work? And how can you keep up to date with the action in the UK?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

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How does the NBA Play-In Tournament work?

The Play-In Tournament is designed to feature underdog teams, and so is set up to showcase the teams that have performed well over the season, but perhaps aren’t household names like your Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz.

On paper, it can read a little bit confusingly; essentially, the seventh eighth places teams in both the eastern and western conference will have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot.

Meanwhile, the teams in ninth and tenth in each conference will each have to win two consecutive games to earn a playoff spot.

The seventh place team in each conference will host the eighth place team in the “Seven-Eight Game”, while the ninth place team in each conference will host the tenth place team in the “Nine-Ten Game”.

The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will earn the No. 7 seed – the loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a Play-In Game, and the winner of that game in each conference will earn the No. 8 seed.

Following the Play-In Tournament, the NBA Playoffs will commence with the traditional 16-team, best-of-seven series structure.

Which teams are involved?

From the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards (8) will be hosted by the Boston Celtics (7), while the Indiana Pacers (9) host the Charlotte Hornets (10).

For the Western Conference, the LA Lakers (7) host the Golden State Warriors (8), and the San Antonio Spurs (9) will host the Memphis Grizzlies (10).

When is the Play-In Tournament?

The State Farm Play-In Tournament will begin on Tuesday 18 May and conclude on Friday 21 May.

The NBA Playoffs will start on Saturday 22 May and conclude no later than July 22.

How can I watch it?

Each of the NBA Play-In Tournament games will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Arena.

But given the time difference between the UK and the US, you might have to stay up quite late to catch them live.

When are the games?

(All are UK times)

Wednesday 19 May

Game 1 (East 9/10): Indiana vs. Charlotte; 12am

Game 2 (East 7/8): Boston vs. Washington; 2.30am

Thursday 20 May

Game 3 (West 9/10): Memphis vs. San Antonio; 12am

Game 4: (West 7/8): Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State; 2.30am

Friday 21 May

East: Winner of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2; 12am

Saturday 22 May

West: Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4; 1am

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