NBA Playoffs 2021: Postseason Schedule, Bracket Format and Odds

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: Postseason Schedule, Bracket Format and Odds

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    The NBA regular season has ended, and the playoff field has been set. Well, sort of. With this year's play-in tournament as part of the postseason, eight teams are still alive and playing for the final four spots in the playoffs proper.

    The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are one of those teams. Regular-season injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis have left Los Angeles facing a win-and-in game against the Golden State Warriors and potential MVP candidate Steph Curry.

    "I don't know anything else if you're looking for an MVP. If Steph is not on Golden State's team, what are we looking at?" James said, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin.

    Indeed, the Warriors wouldn't be where they are without Curry, and his presence is what makes the team dangerous. If he gets hot, he could send Los Angeles to a win-or-go-home game before it ever gets to play a full series.

    If the ins and outs of the play-in tournament seem confusing, don't worry. Here, you'll find a look at the 2021 NBA bracket format, along with everything else you need to know about the playoffs.

Seeding and Bracket Format

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Eastern Conference

    1. Philadelphia 76ers

    2. Brooklyn Nets

    3. Milwaukee Bucks

    4. New York Knicks

    5. Atlanta Hawks

    6. Miami Heat


    Eastern Conference Play-In

    7. Boston Celtics

    8. Washington Wizards

    9. Indiana Pacers

    10. Charlotte Hornets


    Western Conference

    1. Utah Jazz

    2. Phoenix Suns

    3. Denver Nuggets

    4. Los Angeles Clippers

    5. Dallas Mavericks

    6. Portland Trail Blazers


    Western Conference Play-in

    7. Los Angeles Lakers

    8. Golden State Warriors

    9. Memphis Grizzlies

    10. San Antonio Spurs   

    For the 2021 playoffs, the top six seeds in each conference are in. Seeds No. 7-10 will engage in a three-game play-in tournament to finalize the seventh and eighth seeds for the playoffs proper.

    In Game 1, the seventh seed will host the eighth seed, with the winner moving on and the loser getting another chance in Game 3. In Game 2, the ninth seed will host the 10th seed with the loser going home and the winner moving to Game 3.

    The third game will determine the final playoff seed. Once the play-in tournament is complete, traditional playoff seeding will be used—No. 1 vs. No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7 and so on.

Play-in Schedule

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Tuesday, May 18

    East Game 2: (9) Indiana vs. (10) Charlotte at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT

    East Game 1: (7) Boston vs. (8) Washington at 9 p.m. ET on TNT


    Wednesday, May 19

    West Game 2: (9) Memphis vs. (10) San Antonio at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

    West Game 2: (7) Los Angeles vs. (8) Golden State at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN 


    Thursday, May 20

    Winner of East Game 1 vs. Loser of East Game 2 at 8 p.m. ET on TNT


    Friday, May 21

    Winner of West Game 1 vs. Loser of West Game 2, time TBD on ESPN

2021 NBA Championship Odds

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Brooklyn Nets 5-2

    Los Angeles Lakers 4-1

    Los Angeles Clippers 5-1

    Philadelphia 76ers 7-1

    Utah Jazz 7-1

    Milwaukee Bucks 8-1

    Phoenix Suns 18-1

    Denver Nuggets 30-1

    Miami Heat 30-1

    Dallas Mavericks 50-1

    Portland Trail Blazers 55-1

    Atlanta Hawks 100-1

    Boston Celtics 100-1

    Golden State Warriors 100-1

    New York Knicks 100-1

    Memphis Grizzlies 250-1

    Washington Wizards 250-1

    Charlotte Hornets 500-1

    Indiana Pacers 500-1

    San Antonio Spurs 500-1


    Odds from Draftkings Sportsbook


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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    At least one matchup in the play-in tournament will be must-see television. The Warriors are a legitimate threat in a one-game series because of Curry's ability to take over a game. Golden State absolutely can send the Lakers to the elimination game, though Los Angeles only needs to win one of its two games to claim the No. 7 or No. 8 seed.

    It won't be the easiest road, but Los Angeles can make a run, which is reflected in the betting odds. Only the superteam Brooklyn Nets have better odds than the Lakers, and they boast a roster that is virtually unmatched offensively.

    The Lakers are still a team that no one wants to play early. According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the Los Angeles Clippers tanked near the end of the season to ensure they wouldn't avoid their crosstown rivals in the early postseason.

    "What they did here is make moves to avoid the Lakers in Round 1 and Round 2," Windhorst said on SportsCenter (h/t Bleacher Report's Tim Daniels).

    The Clippers will open against the Dallas Mavericks.

    Another interesting aspect of the postseason is that neither of the No. 1 seeds is considered heavy favorites. The Nets, Lakers and Clippers all have better odds than the Philadelphia 76ers and the Utah Jazz, who both finished with the best records in their respective conferences, but it still seems that they're not viewed as significant threats.

    The New York Knicks are definitely not being taken seriously. They have the worst odds among non-play-in teams despite owning the No. 4 seed in the East.

    Right now, Vegas views the Nets and the Lakers—arguably the two most star-studded squads—as the teams to beat in the NBA playoffs. One of those teams may not even make it to a full postseason series.


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