The 2021 NBA playoffs are scheduled to begin on Saturday, April 17 with the first-round action in both conferences. The NBA Finals are slated to start on Thursday, June 3. The league’s top 16 teams will compete to determine the 2020-21 season’s NBA champion.
How do the NBA playoffs work?
The top 16 teams in the league at the end of the regular season qualify for the playoffs. The top eight teams in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference advance to the postseason. The teams are seeded No. 1 through No. 8 in each conference.
In the first round of the postseason, the No. 1 seed in each conference plays the No. 8 seed. No. 2 plays No. 7, No. 3 faces No. 6, and No. 4 plays No. 5. The higher seeded team has the home-court advantage with the first two games at home and then Games 5 and 7. All playoff series are best-of-seven games.
In the second round, the winner of the No. 1-No. 8 series plays the winner of the No. 4-No. 5 series. The No. 3-No.6 winner faces the No. 2-No. 7 winner. The teams that win those series then face each other for the conference championship.
All playoff teams must identify their playoff roster prior to the beginning of the postseason. Teams can carry 15 players of which two are made inactive for each game. A player is eligible to be on a playoff team’s roster if he has been on that team’s roster for at least one regular-season game and was not on the roster of another team after March 1.
Why do the NBA playoffs take so long?
The length of the NBA playoffs comes down to numbers. Over half of the NBA’s 30 teams make the postseason. Every playoff series is a best-of-seven. The main reason why the playoffs take so long is the number of off-days during the postseason. The NBA does not like to schedule games on consecutive days. As a result, a seven-game series can take two weeks or longer.
The league likes to schedule games on days where the television viewing audience will be large. There are times then when playoff teams might have two days off before their next game. The bottom line is that the NBA is in the business of making money. More games equal more ticket sales, more licensed apparel sales, more advertising dollars, and, in the end, higher profits.
NBA playoffs 2021 preview
The defending Eastern Conference champion Milwaukee Bucks have already secured a playoff berth and will likely be the East’s No. 1 seed. Toronto, Boston, and Miami are battling for the No. 2, 3, and 4 seeds. Currently, defending NBA champion Toronto is second.
Philadelphia and Indiana, currently Nos. 5 and 6 respectively, are the only other teams in the East with winning records. They will likely qualify and the bottom two seeds will be a battle between Brooklyn, Orlando, and possibly Washington and Chicago.
In the West, the Los Angeles Lakers have had a stronghold of the No. 1 seed throughout the entire season. Denver checks in at No. 2 followed by the L.A. Clippers and Houston. Only 2.5 games separate fifth-place Utah from seventh-place Dallas. Memphis is currently eighth, but Portland, New Orleans, and San Antonio are all within four games.
Based upon their performance this season, Milwaukee and the L.A. Lakers appear destined for the NBA Finals.
NBA playoffs TV contract
As one of the four major sports in the U.S., professional basketball has a long history of broadcasting games on television. The most recent television contract with the league ended after the 2015-16 season. A new deal was put in place that took effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 season.
The new deal was an extension of the previous agreement that kept the NBA on ESPN and TNT. Regular season games continue to be broadcast by ESPN and TNT and will do so through the 2024-25 NBA season. As part of that TV deal, the NBA Playoffs will continue to be aired on ESPN and ABC. ABC will continue to be the exclusive network for the NBA Finals.
The new contract, which was negotiated back in 2014, was reported to be worth a total of $24 billion, or about $2.66 billion per year. Under the previous contract, TNT paid the NBA $445 million and ESPN ponied up $485 million for broadcast rights. The television money poured into the league has increased the NBA’s salary cap over the past five seasons and will continue to do so through the remainder of the TV contract.
How to live stream NBA playoffs
If you want to watch the 2021 NBA playoffs, you will need access to at least one of four channels that will be broadcasting games. As mentioned, ABC is the exclusive carrier of the NBA Finals. ESPN owns the rights to the Western Conference finals and TNT is the carrier of the Eastern Conference finals. Some first-round playoff games will be aired on NBA TV and others will be broadcast by regional sports networks.
Because games will air on each of these four networks, anyone interested in watching as much NBA playoff basketball as possible will need a streaming service that includes all four. Steaming services are simply a direct replacement of cable and satellite television. Games are streamed through an internet connection.
Assuming you have the proper hardware, there are a number of options available for streaming NBA playoff games. Sling TV and fuboTV are popular streaming services. The problem with fuboTV is that it does not include ESPN. It does carry TNT, NBA TV and ABC in most markets. Sling TV offers both ESPN and TNT, ABC in limited markets and subscribers pay an extra fee for NBA TV.
AT&T’s DirecTV Now is another popular streaming service, but like Sling TV only some plans carry NBA TV. Hulu With Live TV is one of the most popular streaming services but does not include NBA TV.
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For those looking to have all four networks covered, the best option for watching the NBA playoffs is through YouTube TV. The service has ESPN, TNT, NBA TV, and ABC in most markets. It’s important to remember to check and see if ABC is available in your zip code as availability depends upon specific deals each service has signed with the network.