NBA Playoffs 2022: Known Schedule, Bracket Format and Dangerous Teams

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIApril 9, 2022

NBA Playoffs 2022: Known Schedule, Bracket Format and Dangerous Teams

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    Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

    The NBA regular season may not be over, but it's already known which teams will be playing beyond Sunday. There are 10 teams (five from each conference) that have been eliminated from playoff contention, leaving 10 in each conference that will be heading to the postseason.

    Not every team automatically gets to the first round of the playoffs, though, as that's only the case for the top six teams in each conference. The other eight teams must participate in the play-in tournament and try to work their way into the opening round.

    The four play-in teams in the East will be the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers, but the seeding hasn't been decided. In the West, it will be the Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 7), Los Angeles Clippers (No. 8), New Orleans Pelicans (No. 9 or 10) and San Antonio Spurs (No. 9 or 10).

    Here's everything else you need to know before the NBA postseason gets underway next week.

Playoff Format

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    Rusty Jones/Associated Press

    The teams that are the No. 7 or No. 8 seeds in the play-in tournament are in a better position than those in the No. 9 or No. 10 seeds. That's because the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds could potentially lose their first game of the tourney and still end up getting to the first round of the playoffs.

    First, the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds will go head-to-head in each conference. The winner advances to the first round as the No. 7 seed. Meanwhile, the loser isn't yet eliminated.

    The No. 9 and No. 10 seeds will face off, with the loser getting eliminated and the winner staying alive and getting an opportunity to face the loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 game. The winner of that final matchup will then advance to the first round as the No. 8 seed.

    After the play-in tournament, the playoffs will follow the same traditional format. And one of the 16 first-round teams will eventually become the NBA champion.

Early Known Schedule

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Play-In Tournament

    Tuesday, April 12

    Game 1: No. 7 in East vs. No. 8 in East, 7 p.m. ET, TNT

    Game 2: No. 7 Timberwolves vs. No. 8 Clippers, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT


    Wednesday, April 13

    Game 3: No. 9 in East vs. No. 10 in East, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Game 4: No. 9 Pelicans/Spurs vs. No. 10 Pelicans/Spurs, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


    Friday, April 15

    Game 5: Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 1, TBD, ESPN

    Game 6: Winner of Game 4 vs. Loser of Game 2, TBD, TNT


    The first round of the playoffs will begin on Saturday, April 16.

East Team to Watch: Brooklyn Nets

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Nets fans still haven't gotten to see what this team could look like at its full potential. Kevin Durant was limited by a knee injury for part of the season. Kyrie Irving couldn't play in most home games because of New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. And Ben Simmons still hasn't played since coming over in a trade that sent James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers.

    But Durant is healthy now, and Irving can play on Brooklyn's home court again. Simmons is still dealing with a herniated disk in his back, but it's possible he could make his Nets debut at some point during the playoffs (depending on how far the team goes).

    Even without Simmons, Brooklyn is a talented squad when Durant and Irving are both playing. And that will be the case in the play-in tournament and beyond, assuming both stay healthy. Durant has played 54 games this season, while Irving has only played 28, so they haven't spent a ton of time on the court together.

    But Durant and Irving are two of the best players in the NBA, and the Nets could be surging at the right time. They have won three games in a row after beating the Cavaliers on Friday night. And it's quite likely that those two teams will meet again during the play-in tournament, so that could bode well for the Nets' chances.

    So don't count out Brooklyn this postseason, even though it will have to start in the play-in tournament. Its star power could carry it to playoff success, and it should be motivated after getting knocked out by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round last year.

West Team to Watch: Los Angeles Clippers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Clippers have played all season without Kawhi Leonard, who has been recovering from a torn ACL. And the 30-year-old forward may not be back any time soon, as Los Angeles head coach Ty Lue told reporters on Friday that Leonard is still doing individual work, per Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times.

    But that doesn't mean the Clippers aren't capable of having postseason success without Leonard. They now have Paul George, who has been limited to 30 games because of a torn UCL in his right elbow. George is back now, though, and he's helped lead Los Angeles to a three-game winning streak.

    It's quite possible that the Clippers will keep their recent momentum going heading into the play-in tournament. Their final two regular-season games are against the Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder, a pair of teams eliminated from the postseason.

    Not only is George back, but Norman Powell has also returned from injury. Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. have also been playing well while providing a veteran presence, so Los Angeles' rotation could be rounding into form at the right time.

    "Being able to play alongside [George], and Kawhi when he gets back healthy, it’s going to be fun," Powell recently said, per The Athletic's Law Murray. "So I’m definitely looking forward to that."

    And the Clippers may have a lengthy playoff run to look forward to. They should make it into the first round with a strong showing in the play-in tournament, and they could go pretty deep into the postseason, especially if George heats up for them.