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NBA Play-In Tournament: The Amazing Absolute Must-Watch Pathway to the 2023 Playoffs

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The NBA Play-In Tournament is a high-stakes, single-elimination competition that takes place at the end of the regular season, offering lower-seeded teams a chance to secure a spot in the playoffs. You can watch all six games live to see which underdogs will get a shot at the trophy on Sling TV — and you can do it for just $20.

In a hurry? Sling Orange includes ESPN and TNT both for just $40.00/mo — the cheapest TV provider that carries ESPN. Those are the only two channels you need for the Play-In Tournament, and puts you in a good spot for the Playoffs. Right now, you get half off your first month — sign up now!

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The Play-In Tournament is a relative newcomer to the NBA’s postseason format, but it’s one that’s been popular with both players and fans. By having a kind of pre-playoff, 20 out of 30 teams get to continue to participate after the regular season is over. And it gives teams a reason not to tank, or intentionally lose a game to get a better position in the NBA Draft process.

If you want to get in on this, the tip-off to the postseason, all you need to sign up for is Sling Orange — everything you gotta have to watch every play-in game is included. Read on for details.

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NBA Play-In Tournament Overview

The NBA Playoffs work the same as most sports: the teams are seeded, or ranked, by winning percentage in each conference, and the top six teams automatically get to compete for the NBA Championship title.

The Play-In Tournament includes the four teams that are positioned from 7th to 10th place in the league standings after the regular season. Those teams then play a kind of mini tournament to determine the Seventh Seed and Eighth Seed. It was first implemented in the 2019-20 season, to help mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on the season.

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Warrior Jonas Jerebko and Portland Trail Blazer Rodney Hood at the 2019 NBA Playoffs - the last year before the NBA Play-In Tournament was implemented
Golden State Warrior Jonas Jerebko and Portland Trail Blazer Rodney Hood at the 2019 NBA Playoffs / taken by Frenchieinportland under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Some of those top teams have already clinched playoff spots.

The Western Conference

In the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and Phoenix Suns are all confirmed playoff-bound. The LA Clippers and the Golden State Warriors are currently in 5th and 6th place, respectively.

This leaves the play-in teams in the West still up in the air. The current playoff picture standings have the 7-10 positions filled by (in order) the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The following Western teams have been eliminated from playoff consideration. Better luck next year, guys!

  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Utah Jazz
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Houston Rockets
  • San Antonio Spurs

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The Eastern Conference

As for the Eastern Conference, the playoff seeding has been decided. The Milwaukee Bucks have sewn up not just a playoff berth, but the No. 1 Seed. They’re followed by the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, and the Brooklyn Nets.

That means that the Play-In teams have also been determined: Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Toronto Raptors.

These Eastern teams missed the boat to the playoffs, though. Maybe next year, fellas!

  • Indiana Pacers
  • Washington Wizards
  • Orlando Magic
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Detroit Pistons.

How Does the Play-In Tournament Work?

Teams are divided into Groups A and B. Group A is the 7th and 8th seed, and they play each other, with the winner taking the 7th playoff seed.

In Group B, the 9th and 10th seeds play. The loser is out, but the winner goes on to play the loser of the Group A match, and that winner takes the 8th seed.

Since the Hawks defeated the Heat and the Lakers put away the Timberwolves, Atlanta and LA are the #7 seeds for East and West, respectively. Miami and Minnesota have one more chance at the 8-seed in the Finals.

The Thunder rolled over the Pelicans, and the Bulls trampled the Raptors, so Chicago and Oklahoma City will play Miami and Minnesota April 14 for the #8 seed.

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Watch the NBA Play-In Tournament on Sling TV

Sling TV NBA TV Android
NBA TV on an Android phone running Sling TV.

The Sling Orange play for $40.00/mo is all you need to watch every game of the 2023 NBA play-in — and the rest of the playoffs. It is simply the cheapest way to watch the playoffs.

Sling TV is also the best overall value in streaming because it allows you to customize your channel lineup in a way that no other service does. It also comes with a great modern app that runs on almost all streaming devices in use including the Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, Android and iOS mobile devices, Xbox gaming system, and more.

And the plan comes with 50 hours of cloud DVR storage. What’s more, you get a 50% discount on your first month if you sign up now!

Play-In Tournament Schedule

The NBA Play-In Tournament is just six matchups long, played over three days. Here’s a rundown:

  • Tue April 11 : Game 1 — Atlanta Hawks vs Miami Heat (116-105)
  • Tue April 11 : Game 2 — Minnesota Timberwolves vs Los Angeles Lakers (102-108)
  • Wed April 12 : Game 3 — Chicago Bulls vs Toronto Raptors (109-105)
  • Wed April 12 : Game 4 — Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans (123-118)
  • Fri Apr 14 : Game 5 — Chicago @ Miami (TNT)
  • Fri Apr 14 : Game 6 — Oklahoma City @ Minnesota (ESPN)

Wrapping Up

For half the teams in the play-in, this is do-or-die so these games are likely to see the teams put out their best. You can watch it all with Sling Orange. Get your first month for half off!

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What does the first round of the Playoffs currently look like?

Here’s the schedule for the Playoffs Round 1, with teams filled in where available:

  • Sat Apr 15 : Brooklyn @ Philadelphia (ESPN)
  • Sat Apr 15 : Atlanta @ Boston (ESPN)
  • Sat Apr 15 : New York @ Cleveland (ESPN)
  • Sat Apr 15 : Golden State @ Sacramento (ABC)
  • Sat Apr 16: Miami @ Milwaukee
  • Sat Apr 16: Minnesota @ Denver
  • Sat Apr 16: Lakers @ Memphis
  • Sat Apr 16: LA Clippers @ Phoenix

Page Updates

  1. Added links to streaming services. Cross linking.

  2. Reworked some sections.

Alanna Baker
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