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NBA Playoffs explained: your complete guide

With the NBA regular season in the books: it's time to get in to the NBA playoffs. OnlineBetting.com is here to guide you through the tournament with all the information you need: how the NBA playoffs work, NBA playoff odds, NBA playoff predictions and more.

5/30/2022, 12:30 AM
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Last updated: May 28, 12:42 AM UTC

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The NBA playoffs are renowned as one of the most exciting and intriguing events in the entirety of sports. During the playoffs, the best players come into their own, while the legacy of teams is decided over this postseason tournament. At its conclusion, one side walks away with the NBA Championship and has their name etched in history.

NBA Playoff odds

There are plenty of betting markets available to take advantage of during the NBA Playoffs. Here’s a quick guide that will help you get your picks ready, all the way from the early play-in games to the point where you’ll be placing bets on your NBA Finals Predictions.

How many teams play in the NBA Playoffs?

The playoffs are decided between 16 teams, eight from both NBA conferences (East and West). Each franchise is ranked by their winning percentage, with the top six teams from both conferences automatically qualifying for the playoffs. Meanwhile, those ranked from seventh to tenth take part in a play-in tournament to determine who will take the remaining places.

The Play-in tournament

The play-in tournament was introduced across both conferences in 2021 as a way to determine the final four teams that would enter the playoffs. It sees the side ranked seventh during the regular season take on the side ranked eighth, then the side ranked ninth, take on the team with the tenth best win percentage in the conference. The winner of seventh vs eighth progresses to the playoffs. The loser of that game plays the winner of ninth vs tenth to decide the final playoff place for that conference.

The Play-in games are single games, rather than the best-of-seven format that the actual playoffs employ.

Playoff seeding

Predictably, the top six teams in a conference are seeded based on their winning percentage during the regular season. The team with the best record is seeded 1 and so on. When there is a tie, the team with the better head-to-head record receives the higher seeding.

On the rare occasion that this is also a tie, then divisional champions receive the higher seed. If neither side holds this accolade, then seeding is decided by their win-loss record against other sides in the conference.

The seventh and eight seeds are decided by the play-in tournament. The number one seed plays the number eight seed, while number two plays number seven and so forth.

How NBA playoffs work

The playoff tournament works on a best-of-seven basis, with each round determined by the side that is first to win four games in each series.

The second round of the playoffs is known as the conference semi-finals, while the winners of that game progress to the conference final. The two conference champions then take part in the NBA Finals.

The NBA Finals Format are the same as the other rounds, with the winner being the first side to defeat the other team in the final four times.

The winner are crowned NBA Champions.

If you are betting on the Futures market picking the team you think will become NBA Champions, then you should consider how other teams of that seeding have done.

Thus far, 48 number one seeds have won The Championship, while 16 number two seeds have lifted the NBA Championship trophy. Seven teams that entered the postseason as number three seeds have become champions, while just one team that was number 4 seed and another that was number 6 seed have won the entire tournament.

So far, no teams that were five, seven or eight seed have become NBA Champions.

Home/Away NBA playoffs format

The side with the better regular-season record receives advantage here, with the playoff series taking a 2-2-1-1-1 home/away format.

Having four home games and three away can be a great benefit to a side, especially as they can go 2-0 up before ever having to play an away game.

The side that has the superior regular season record can progress by winning all of their home games and losing all of their away ones. When making NBA playoffs predictions, this is a factor often considered by the experts.

How long do the playoffs last?

The playoffs last for approximately two months from mid-April to mid-June.

History of the Playoffs & NBA Finals

It has often been said that the best way to predict the future is by looking at the past, so let’s look at some interesting statistics from previous NBA Playoff seasons…

Lowest seed to be NBA champions

Houston Rockets hold the record of being the lowest-seeded team to conquer the playoffs and win the NBA Championship. This happened during the 1994/95 season, where they held a 47-35 regular season record and entered postseason as the number six seed side.

Put simply, they were a different team in the post-season, defeating the Utah Jazz in five games, then overcoming the Phoenix Suns in an epic Conference Semi-Final.

In the Conference Finals, they overcame the great David Robinson and his San Antonio Spurs before facing a young Shaquille O’Neal and his Orlando Magic team in the NBA Finals. They swept Shaq and the Magic 4-0, winning the NBA Championship for the second consecutive year.

Which player has won the most NBA Playoff games?

LeBron James has the most career wins in the playoffs, being victorious in 174 out of the 266 games he has played in the postseason. James won’t get the chance to add to that number this season, as his LA Lakers didn’t do enough to reach the playoffs.

Lakers and Celtics domination

Of the 74 Championships already played, the Lakers and Boston Celtics have won more than half of them, with 17 apiece. This is also the most common of all the NBA Finals matchups, with the two franchises playing against each other 12 times in the NBA decider.

Of course, Los Angeles will not be in the playoffs this season so Boston could move ahead of them in the overall winners standings.

The Conference divide

The Eastern Conference leads the Western Conference with the NBA Finals victor coming from there 39 times (39/34). The now defunct Central Division had one victorious side.

Current NBA champions

Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Championship Finals in 2021, defeating the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in six games. ‘The Greek Freak’ Giannis Antetokounmpo won the NBA Finals MVP. They have shown glimpses of brilliances this year, with many experts fancying their NBA Finals Odds.

Betting and the NBA playoffs

When it comes to the NBA Playoffs, you can bet on Futures markets such as which team you think will win each conference or which side you think will become NBA Champions. There is an abundance of markets here including ‘Finals MVP’, ‘To Reach NBA Finals’, etc.

You can also bet on the individual match-ups, the over/under , put together parlays and predict the amount of games it will take for one team to get past another in a round. Overall, the opportunities are endless, so get your NBA playoff predictions ready.

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May 30, 22 @ 12:30 AM UTC
Boston @

Odds updated: May 28, 12:50 AM UTC

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