NBA team play 82 games in the regular season, up to two games in the Play-In tournament, and up to 28 games in the playoffs.
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How did the NBA first decide to play 82 games?
The NBA had its first season in 1946-47.
Its regular season and playoffs, however, underwent several changes over the years.
The first season, with just 11 teams, the NBA’s schedule had teams playing a total of at least 60 regular-season games, and up to 20 playoff games.
In the 1967-68 season, two expansion teams – the San Diego Rockets, and the Seattle Supersonics – took the total number of NBA teams to 12.
That season, each NBA team played eight (8) games against their conference rival – Eastern conference and Western conference – and seven (7) games against non-conference rivals.
Each conference had six teams.
Thus 82 games came from:
8 games x 5 conference rivals = 40 games.
7 games x 6 opposite conference rivals = 42 games.
The NBA however, continued to expand until the 2004-05 season. This was when the last expansion team – the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Charlotte Hornets) – joined the NBA, taking the total number of teams to 30. The number of teams remains unchanged to this day.
How NBA teams divided into conferences and divisions?
The modern NBA era features a total of 30 teams.
These teams are divided into two conferences – Eastern and Western – of 15 teams each.
Within a conference, teams are further subdivided into divisions. featuring five (5) teams each.
The Eastern Conference features the Atlantic Division, the Central Division and the Southeast Division.
The Western Conference features the Northwest Division, the Pacific Division, and the Southwest Division.
Here is the breakup of the teams by division, sorted alphabetically:
|Eastern Conference||Western Conference|
|Atlantic Division||Northwest Division|
|Boston Celtics||Denver Nuggets|
|Brooklyn Nets||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|New York Knicks||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Philadelphia 76ers||Portland Trailblazers|
|Toronto Raptors||Utah Jazz|
|Central Division||Pacific Division|
|Chicago Bulls||Golden State Warriors|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||Los Angeles Clippers|
|Detroit Pistons||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Indiana Pacers||Phoenix Suns|
|Milwaukee Bucks||Sacramento Kings|
|Southeast Division||Southwest Division|
|Atlanta Hawks||Dallas Mavericks|
|Charlotte Hornets||Houston Rockets|
|Miami Heat||Memphis Grizzlies|
|Orlando Magic||New Orleans Hornets|
|Washington Wizards||San Antonio Spurs|
How are the 82 games calculated in the modern NBA era?
As we see above, there are 30 teams divided into two conferences and six divisions.
Each team will play
I. Four games against its division rivals; 4 games x 4 teams = 16 games.
II. Four games against six of its out-of-division conference rivals; 4 games x 6 teams = 24 games.
III. Three games against the remaining four out-of-division rivals; 3 games x 4 teams = 12 games.
III. Two games against its non-conference rivals; 2 games x 15 teams = 30 games.
That gives us a total of 82 games.
How, then, does the NBA decide which out-of-division conference rivals should a team play four times, and which they should play three times.
For this, the NBA has come up with a five-year rotation policy.
This means that once every five years, a team will play an out-of-division conference rival four times.
Year 1 to Year 4 – 3 games.
Year 5 – 4 games.
Year 6 – Year 9 – 3 games.
Year 10 – 4 games.
And so on.
How many playoff games do NBA teams play?
The NBA playoffs format has evolved over the years.
In its first season, the two top teams in each conference qualified for a best-of-seven semifinal. The second and the third-best teams in each conference battled for a spot in the second semifinal.
In the modern NBA era, there are four playoff rounds:
The first round (or) Quarter-Finals
The second round (or) Semi-Finals
The third round (or) Conference Finals
The NBA Finals.
Each round is a best-of-seven series; i.e. a team has to win four out of seven games to proceed to the next round.
What is the NBA Play-In tournament?
Till the 2019 playoffs, the top eight teams – based on their regular-season record – from each conference moved on to the Playoffs.
However, since the difference between the records of the seventh-seed and the tenth-seed was often so small, the NBA wanted to give more teams a chance to try and make it into the playoffs.
So starting in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, the NBA initiated the Play-In tournament.
The Play-in tournament is fairly simple:
It starts with two games:
Game 1 – 7-seed vs. 8-seed, and
Game 2 – 9-seed vs. 10-seed
The winner of Game 1 proceeds to get the seventh seed in the Playoffs.
The loser of Game 1 plays the winner of Game 2. The winner of this game gets the eighth seed in the Playoffs.
As mentioned at the start of this article, NBA teams play 82 regular season games, up to two games in the Play-In tournament, and up to 28 games in the NBA playoffs.
If you like this article you probably would like to learn more about how NBA teams earn their playoffs seeds, and how the regular season record matters.
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