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NBA expands 2021 playoffs with Play-In Tournament in each conference

NBA announces format for the 2020-21 season, which will include a Play-In Tournament to determine the teams that will fill the seventh and eighth playoff seeds in each conference; Regular season - shortened to 72 games - will start on December 22

LeBron James is guarded by Jimmy Butler go head to head in Game 5 of the NBA Finals
Image: LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers to their first NBA title in a decade this year

The 2020-21 NBA postseason will be expanded to include a Play-in Tournament in each conference.

The pandemic-shortened regular season, reduced to 72 games, will start on December 22 and the postseason will begin on May 18.

Ten teams in each conference will advance to the postseason, with teams seeded seventh through 10th participating in a Play-in Tournament to gain admission to the conference playoffs.

The coronavirus pandemic truncated the 2019-20 season and forced a delayed start to the upcoming season.

The NBA Board of Governors announced the season would be established in two segments - the first from December 22-March 4, followed by the All-Star break (March 5-10), with the second half of the season running from March 11-May 16.

The teams with the seventh-best and eighth-best records in each conference will play one game, with the winner becoming the No 7 seed in the playoffs.

The teams with the ninth and 10th-best records will play a game, with the winner of that contest then meeting the loser of the "seven-eight" game for the right to become the No 8 seed in the playoffs.

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So, the teams 7 and 8 would need only to win one game in two tries while teams 9 and 10 would have to win two in a row.

The 72-game schedule, compared to the traditional 82-game season, will not be perfectly balanced.

The league said: "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 intraconference opponent and two games against each interconference opponent.

The playoffs are due to end by July 22, which is the day before the opening ceremonies of the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Calendar for the 2020-21 season:

December 11-19, 2020: Preseason games

December 22, 2020 - March 4, 2021: First Half of regular season

March 5-10, 2021: All-Star break

March 11 - May 16, 2021: Second Half of regular season

May 18-21, 2021: Play-In Tournament

May 22 - July 22, 2021: 2021 NBA Playoffs

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