The National Basketball Association (NBA) will use a play-off tournament to determine the seventh and eighth seeds in the 2020-2021 post-season, according to a new format unveiled by the league on Tuesday (Nov 17).

The shortened season tips off on Dec 22, with each team playing 72 games rather than the traditional 82 games in order to allow the play-offs to be completed in July and players to be made available for the Olympics. The post-season will open on May 18.

The biggest change to the season format is the new method for determining the top eight post-season teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences.

Previously, the top eight teams in each conference advance to the play-offs.

This season, the league plans to play a mini-tournament between teams placed from seventh to 10th in order to determine the seventh and eighth seeds.

A similar format was used last season when the league restarted in its Orlando “bubble” following a four-month shutdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Under the new format, the team with the seventh-highest winning percentage in each conference will play a home game against the team with the eighth-highest winning percentage in its conference. The winner of that game will take the seventh seeding.

The loser of that game will then play the winner of a play-off between the ninth and 10th placed teams for the eighth and final play-off berth.

So, the teams No. 7 and No. 8 would need to win only one game in two tries while teams No. 9 and No. 10 would have to win two in a row.

The play-off tweak was the most significant change to the league format announced on Tuesday.

A full schedule for the 2020-2021 season will be rolled out in stages, with the first half of the season revealed during pre-season training camps. Fixtures for the second half of the campaign will be confirmed midway through the season.

The 72-game schedule will not be perfectly balanced though. Pointedly, the league announced: “The Second Half schedule will include the remainder of each team’s 72 games not scheduled in the First Half as well as any games postponed during the First Half that can reasonably be added to the Second Half schedule.”

The schedule will include teams playing three games against each intra-conference opponent and two games against each inter-conference opponent.


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