Theis over and now the real fun begins. In years past the top eight teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences made the playoffs, but new for the 2021 season is a special play-in tournament to figure out the final two playoff spots in each region.
Three play-in teams have already advanced and the tournament ends today with a game on ESPN between the Warriors and the Grizzlies to determine the final playoff spot. The actual playoffs start Saturday, May 22, and games will air on TNT, ESPN and ABC.
Here’s everything you need to know to catch all the basketball action this postseason.
Who are the play-in teams and what are their seeds?
In the Eastern Conference the play-in teams, in order of seeding, are:
7. Boston Celtics (advanced to playoffs)
8. Washington Wizards (advanced to playoffs)
9. Indiana Pacers (eliminated)
10. Charlotte Hornets (eliminated)
In the Western Conference the teams are:
7. Los Angeles Lakers (advanced to playoffs)
8. Golden State Warriors
9. Memphis Grizzlies
10. San Antonio Spurs (eliminated)
What is the schedule for the play-in tournament?
The first five games of the tournament took take place earlier this week and there were no upsets. As noted above, three teams have been eliminated and three teams have advanced to their conference playoff series starting this weekend.
The final play-in game will determine the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Here’s the details:
Friday, May 21
- No. 9 Grizzlies vs. No. 8 Warriors (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, ESPN)
What’s the schedule for the first round of the NBA playoffs?
The 2021 NBA playoffs start this weekend and will continue throughout the month of June — the Finals are scheduled to start July 8. As in past years, each playoff series potentially runs seven games. The lowest and highest seeds in each conference play one another in the first round, and this weekend every playoff team is in action for Game 1.
Saturday, May 22
- No. 7 Boston Celtics at No. 2 Brooklyn Nets (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, ABC)
- No. 6 Miami Heat at No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks (2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, ESPN)
- No. 5 Dallas Mavericks at No. 4 LA Clippers (4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT, ESPN)
- No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers at No. 3 Denver Nuggets (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT, ESPN)
Sunday, May 23
- No. 8 Washington Wizards at No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers (1 p.m ET/10 a.m. PT, TNT)
- No. 5 Atlanta Hawks at No. 4 New York Knicks (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, TNT)
- No. 7 LA Lakers at No. 2 Phoenix Suns (3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT, ABC)
- No. 8 Warriors or Grizzlies at No. 1 Utah Jazz (9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT, TNT)
Check out the full playoff schedule at NBA.com.
How can I watch the NBA playoffs on TV live without cable?
Four of the five majoroffer ESPN, TNT and ABC (all but Sling TV), but not every service carries your local ABC station, so check the links below to make sure it’s available in your area. Sling, to its credit, will be simulcasting the games that air on ABC.
If you have FuboTV you’ll need something else to catch the games on TNT. Getting NBA TV, which will have some coverage as well, may require an additional fee.
Our top picks? For the most complete option — and a better app — check out YouTube TV. If you want to get all the games for the cheapest rate, Sling TV is the pick.
Google’s live TV streaming service offers all the channels you’ll need for the NBA playoffs for $65 per month.
Sling TV’s Orange package offers ESPN and TNT for $35 per month. While it does not carry ABC, Sling says it will simulcast the games that air on ABC through ESPN3. Getting NBA TV, however, requires the additional $11 per month Sports Extra add-on.
Hulu Plus Live TV costs $65 a month and includes three of the channels you’ll need for the NBA Playoffs, with the exception being NBA TV.
AT&T TV’s basic Entertainment package costs $70 and carries ABC, ESPN and TNT. To get NBA TV, however, you will need to upgrade to the $85 per month Choice option.
When do the playoffs start?
The actual NBA playoffs will begin on Saturday, May 22. The last game for the NBA Finals will be, if necessary, on July 22.
Will fans be allowed at the games?
Whereas the 2020 playoffs took place in a Walt Disney World bubble in Orlando, Florida, the NBA has played its 2020-21 season in regular arenas with fans increasingly coming back to stadiums as local COVID-19 restrictions have eased. Fans are allowed at playoff games this year, though the exact number in each venue will vary.