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When do the NBA playoffs start in 2021? Key dates, schedule, updated standings & more to know

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The 2021 NBA playoffs are here. While lottery teams are hoping to land Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, playoff contenders are ready to fight for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

The postseason fields in each conference are set after a wild end to the 2020-21 regular season. The play-in tournament clearly served its intended purpose, adding a new level of intrigue and drama down the stretch.

MORE: Explaining the NBA’s play-in tournament

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2021 NBA playoffs, including the play-in tournament schedule.

When do the NBA playoffs start in 2021?

  • Play-in tournament: May 18-21
  • NBA playoffs: May 22

The 2021 NBA play-in tournament will begin on Tuesday, May 18. The first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs will start four days later on Saturday, May 22.

July 22 is the latest possible date for an NBA Finals game.

How will the NBA playoffs work?

  • The play-in tournament will be held after the conclusion of the 2020-21 regular season and before the start of the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in the standings of each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots. Teams Nos. 7-10 will enter the play-in tournament.
  • Each conference’s Nos. 7 and 8 teams will face off, with the winner earning the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The loser will still have one more opportunity to reach the playoffs.
  • Each conference’s Nos. 9 and 10 teams will face off, with the winner advancing to play the loser of the No. 7-vs.-No. 8 game. The loser of the No. 9-vs.-No. 10 game will be eliminated from playoff contention.
  • The loser of the No. 7-vs.-No. 8 game and the winner of the No. 9-vs.-No. 10 game will then play against each other. The winner of that game will be the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. The loser will be eliminated from playoff contention.
  • Beyond the play-in tournament, the 2021 NBA playoffs will follow the typical format, with full best-of-seven series all the way through the NBA Finals.

NBA playoff schedule 2021

Games on ESPN and ABC can also be streamed on fuboTV, which offers a 7-day free trial.

May 18

Game (play-in) Time (ET) National TV
Hornets vs. Pacers 6:30 p.m. TNT
Wizards vs. Celtics 9 p.m. TNT

May 19

Game (play-in) Time (ET) National TV
Spurs vs. Grizzlies 7:30 p.m. ESPN
Warriors vs. Lakers 10 p.m. ESPN

May 20

Game (play-in) Time (ET) National TV
Pacers vs. Wizards 8 p.m. TNT

May 21

Game (play-in) Time (ET) National TV
Grizzlies vs. Warriors 9 p.m. ESPN

May 22

Game Time (ET) National TV
Heat vs. Bucks 2 p.m. ESPN
Mavericks vs. Clippers 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Celtics vs. Nets 8 p.m. ABC
Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets 10:30 p.m. ESPN

NBA standings 2021: Eastern Conference

Seed Team Record Games back
1. 76ers* 49-23
2. Nets* 48-24 1
3. Bucks* 46-26 3
4. Knicks* 41-31 8
5. Hawks* 41-31 8
6. Heat* 40-32 9
7. Celtics** 36-36 13
8. Wizards** 34-38 15
9. Pacers** 34-38 15
10. Hornets** 33-39 16
Bulls 31-41 18
Raptors 27-45 22
Cavaliers 22-50 27
Magic 21-51 28
Pistons 20-52 29

*clinched playoff berth
**clinched play-in berth
Eliminated from playoff contention: Bulls, Cavaliers, Magic, Pistons, Raptors

NBA standings 2021: Western Conference

Seed Team Record Games back
1. Jazz* 52-20
2. Suns* 51-21 1
3. Nuggets* 47-25 5
4. Clippers* 47-25 5
5. Mavericks* 42-30 10
6. Trail Blazers* 42-30 10
7. Lakers** 42-30 10
8. Warriors** 39-33 13
9. Grizzlies** 38-34 14
10. Spurs** 33-39 19
Pelicans 31-41 21
Kings 31-41 21
Timberwolves 23-49 29
Thunder 22-50 30
Rockets 17-55 35

*clinched playoff berth
**clinched play-in berth

Eliminated from playoff contention: Kings, Pelicans, Rockets, Thunder, Timberwolves

NBA playoff bracket 2021

(NBA)




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