When is the NBA Play-In Tournament? Rules, Teams, Location & How to Watch

Los Angeles Lakers
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The NBA is officially in its home stretch. With the All-Star break done there are less than two months until the playoffs arrive. An exciting time for all, especially us, the audience. There is nothing better than playoff basketball.

The 2023 playoffs will, among other things, mark the third year since the play-in tournament was instituted. It has led to an added measure of excitement in the days leading up to the start of the postseason proper, and more importantly added incentive for a handful of teams to compete in the final four weeks of the season when they might have otherwise decided to tank.

For all that it is, play-in tournament is not easy to understand. That's why we are here. Here's everything you need to know about the 2023 NBA play-in tournament.

When is the Play-In Tournament?

The play-in tournament traditionally takes place between the end of the regular season and the official start of the playoffs. This year, the season ends on Sunday, April 9 and the playoffs begin on Saturday, April 15. So the play-in tournament will take place from Tuesday, April 11 to Friday, April 14.

NBA Play-In Tournament Rules

Okay, this is the fun stuff. To start, both conferences have a play-in tournament. The only teams eligible for the play-in tournament are the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th seeds, determined by record at the end of the season. To be clear -- teams that finish with a top-six record or a bottom-five record in their conferences do not participate in the NBA play-in tournament.

That's straightforward enough. The tricky stuff is when the games actually start to play. The first round of the play-in tournament features the 7th seed playing the 8th seed and the 9th seed playing the 10th seed. The winner of the 7-8 seed game qualifies for the playoffs and is the 7th seed in its conference bracket. The loser of the 9-10 seed game is eliminated.

Once the first round is done, only two teams remain. Whoever wins that game ends up as the 8th seed in its conference playoff bracket. Thus, the play-in tournament is over and done with.

NBA Play-In Tournament Teams

As previously stated, the teams involved in the play-in tournament are the teams with the 7th to 10th best records in each conference.

In 2022, the play-in tournament teams from the West were the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Los Angeles Clippers, the New Orleans Pelicans, and the San Antonio Spurs. From that group, the Wolves and Pelicans qualified for the playoffs. The play-in tournament teams from the East were the Brooklyn Nets, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Charlotte Hornets. From that group, the Nets and Hawks qualified for the playoffs.

NBA Play-In Tournament Location

The play-in tournament does not take place at a neutral site. Instead, home court advantage is awarded to the higher seed. So the 7th seed would host the 8th seed on its home court for the first game while the 9th seed would host the 10th seed. Therefore it varies year-to-year where it all goes down.

How to Watch NBA Play-In Tournament

In past years, the play-in tournament games have been split between ESPN and TNT. You can watch ESPN live via your cable subscription. You can watch TNT the same way, and stream it on their website.