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While it seems like things just tipped off yesterday, the 2022 NBA regular season has come to an end. Traditionally, that would mean it’s time for the playoffs. In Adam Silver’s Association, however, there’s an intermediary step: the NBA Play-In Tournament. Those six games give four teams in each conference a chance to punch their ticket to the proper postseason.

If you’re still a little confused about how things work, though, there’s no need to fear. We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about the Play-In Tournament.

How does the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament work?

If you’re a basketball fan and hear the word tournament, your mind probably jumps to March Madness. The NBA Play-In Tournament, however, works a bit differently.

For starters, the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth seeds from each conference qualify for these additional games. On each side of the bracket, the two higher-seeded teams will play each other on the first evening of action. The winner of those games will enter the playoffs as their conference’s seventh-ranked squad, while the losing teams fall into an additional game.

On the next night, the ninth seeds will face the tenth seeded teams. The loser of those games will be eliminated, and the winning teams advance to play the loser of the higher-ranked games. The victors of the third night’s contests qualify for the playoffs as each conference’s eighth seed.

This year’s play-in teams are:

7Brooklyn NetsMinnesota Timberwolves
8Cleveland CavaliersLA Clippers
9Atlanta HawksNew Orleans Pelicans
10Charlotte HornetsSan Antonio Spurs

When are the play-in games, and where can you watch them?

Now that you know the participating teams and how the Play-In Tournament works, it’s time to look at the games. They’ll unfold in the following order:

Tuesday, April 12

  • Game 1: (8) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Brooklyn Nets (7 ET, TNT)
  • Game 2: (8) LA Clippers vs. (7) Minnesota Timberwolves (9:30 ET, TNT)

Wednesday, April 13

  • Game 3: (10) Charlotte Hornets vs. (9) Atlanta Hawks (7 ET, ESPN)
  • Game 4: (10) San Antonio Spurs vs. (9) New Orleans Pelicans (9:30 ET, ESPN)

Friday, April 15

  • Game 5: Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 1 (TBD, ESPN)
  • Game 6: Winner of Game 4 vs. Loser of Game 2 (TBD, TNT)

The one scheduling caveat comes for the final two games on April 15. Those contests will tip-off at 7:30 ET and 10 ET if the Clippers are the Western Conference’s home team. If Minnesota is the higher remaining seed, they’ll begin at 7 ET and 9:30 ET.

The NBA Play-In Tournament will feature plenty of compelling storylines

If you’re feeling cynical, you could argue that the NBA Play-In Tournament artificially expands the postseason to squeeze some extra TV and ticket revenue into the league’s bottom line. Even if that’s true, there will still be plenty to watch during the six additional contests.

The top dog, at least from a narrative perspective, is the Brooklyn Nets. Based purely on talent, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant should be competing for championships, not fighting for their postseason lives. Will they be able to escape the Play-In Tournament and build something special? Or will their disappointing campaign come to a fittingly premature end?

Elsewhere in the East, Trae Young will have the chance to work some more postseason magic. Can he repeat his heroics from last year and keep Atlanta alive? The Cavs’ young core will also get their moment on the big stage against Charlotte, hoping to get the franchise over the hump.

On the opposite side of the bracket, Karl-Anthony Towns steps into the spotlight for the Timberwolves. The big man has put up impressive numbers but is often overlooked due to Minnesota’s media footprint. While he doesn’t exactly need a coming-out party, he’ll look to prove his credentials in front of the basketball world.

For the Clippers, just about everything comes down to Kawhi Leonard’s availability. If he’s able to play at anything near his best, LA can bust the Western Conference bracket wide open; if he’s still sidelined, though, another year of the Leonard-Paul George partnership has gone down the tubes.

In the Spurs-Pelicans game, both clubs have a chance to show they belong after a strong second half of the season. The match-up will likely come down to the battle between two dynamic duos: Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson for San Antonio and CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram of New Orleans. Whoever gains the edge will likely lead their team to victory and provide a glimpse into a potentially promising future.

Whether you have a vested interest or simply want to enjoy the spectacle, though, one thing is clear: the NBA Play-In Tournament is the start of an exciting few months. You won’t want to miss out on the action.