Everything you need to know about the NBA Playoffs

May 22, 2021
HEYO! It’s been a whirlwind of a week in the NBA, but now that the play-in tournament is over, it’s time to get to the good stuff: the playoffs.
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Everything you need to know about the NBA Playoffs
Source: NBA/Giphy


I think we might need to poke LeBron in the eye a lot more to hit shots like that.

—LA Laker Anthony Davis on his teammate LeBron James, who suffered an eye injury during Wednesday’s play-in game and still hit the winning three to send them to the playoffs.

🔀 The play-in tournament

Before we get into it, let’s review the past week in the NBA. The play-in tournament, which the league first introduced during the 2020 bubble and expanded this season, was held over four wild nights to determine the seventh and eighth seeds for both conferences.

  • The teams that finished seventh through 10th in the regular season participated in the play-in, and four made it through: the No. 7 Boston Celtics and No. 8 Washington Wizards in the East, and No. 7 LA Lakers and No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies in the West.

🏀 The set-up

Four rounds, 16 teams, only one winner.The postseason — featuring eight teams from each conference — officially starts today. In the first round, the first seeded team plays the eighth seed, the second seed versus the seventh, and so on.

  • Each round is a best-of-seven series, with the first round running over the next couple of weeks, and the second round being announced as teams move on. Stay on top of the ever-evolving schedule here.

After solid regular seasons, the Utah Jazz won the Western Conference title and the Philadelphia 76ers the East, putting them as top seeds in the postseason and the natural favorites to win it all. But not the only favorites…

➡️ Eastern Conference

No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards: This one’s going to be spicy. The Sixers’ Joel Embiid (pronounced jo-ELL em-BEED) and the Wizards’ Russell Westbrook have a long-standing...rivalry? Feud? Basically, they hate each other, and they’ll bring it up any chance they get.

  • Embiid and his No. 1 Sixers definitely have the upper hand here, as they swept the regular season head-to-head battle 3-0 over the Wizards, but for their part, the Wizards are not afraid.

No. 2 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics: Earlier this season, the Nets combined some of the biggest personalities in the league — James Harden, Kevin Durant and former Celtic Kyrie Irving — and while things could’ve gone terribly, the Nets turned things around after a mediocre 2020 bubble season to come within a game of the top spot.

  • The Celtics have a lot to prove in this one, especially since they were swept 3-0 by the Nets in the regular season. If they can pull out the win, it’ll be the ultimate underdog story.

No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Miami Heat: Well, well, well. They meet again. For the second straight year, the Bucks and Heat have a date in the playoffs, and the Bucks will be looking for revenge after losing in five to the underdog Heat in the 2020 second round.

  • Although the Bucks won their third straight divisional title, the NBA Championship proved elusive. But with two Antetokounmpo (pronounced ah-dedo-KOON-bo) brothers on the roster (Giannis and Thanasis), we have high hopes this year.

No. 4 New York Knicks vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks: This matchup might just be the most underrated heading into the postseason. The Knicks have a 3-0 stronghold on the season’s head-to-head record, but the Hawks have been heating up in the past couple of months. This is the series for a pure offense (Atlanta) versus defense (NY) showdown.

⬅️ Western Conference

No. 1 Utah Jazz vs. No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies: The Jazz are the favored team, but the Grizzlies have shown true grit to make it this far. In last night’s final play-in tournament game, reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant led Memphis to an overtime win over the Golden State Warriors, and they shouldn’t be underestimated.

  • Still, the Jazz finished the season in the top spot despite losing their best player Donovan Mitchell over a month ago to an ankle injury. Lucky for the Jazz (and not for the Grizzlies): Mitchell should be back for Game 1.

No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 7 LA Lakers: The reigning champ Lakers had to participate in the play-in tournament to make the playoffs, but don’t let that fool you. Superstar LeBron James missed part of the regular season with injury, but he’s back, healthy and fresh off a win over rival Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

  • Meanwhile, this is the Sun's first playoff appearance in 11 years, so the squad will have to manage the postseason pressures if they want a chance against the very experienced Lakers.

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers: This series features two of the best offenses in the league, and we’re a little bit heartbroken that Nuggets star Jamal Murray won’t get to experience it (he’s out indefinitely with a knee injury).

  • The Trail Blazers have the longest active postseason streak with eight straight playoff appearances, but we’re giving the Nuggets the edge in this one (between us, they’re our favorites to win it all).

No. 4 LA Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks: The No. 5 Mavs haven’t won a playoff round in 10 years. It’s a bad streak, but we’re betting they finally break it this year, because while the team is under a lot of pressure to win, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers are under even more.

👀 How to watch

We really hope you didn’t make any plans today, because with four back-to-back games, there’s no time for anything else. The Bucks vs. Miami Heat will start at 2 p.m. ET, followed by the Mavs vs. Clippers, Celtics vs. Nets, and finally the Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets.

  • All of today’s games will air on Sportsnet in Canada and on ESPN in the U.S., except the Celtics vs. Nets tilt, which will air on ABC. Get your comfy pants on, it’s game time.