Explainer: How do the NBA Finals work?

With the NBA Finals starting tomorrow, we thought we’d give you a quick rundown of how this competition works.
How do the NBA Finals work?

The final two teams in the NBA, the men’s professional basketball league in the U.S, have been set. So, how do the NBA Finals work?

With the NBA Finals starting tomorrow, we thought we’d give you a quick rundown of how this competition works.

Eastern Conference and Western Conference

The first thing to know is that the NBA is split into two groups – the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference.

Each Conference has 15 teams, which is then split into three smaller groups of five, called ‘Divisions’. The teams are mostly grouped based on their location to reduce travel time.

During a regular season, each team plays 82 games.

If you finish in the top six of the Conference, you qualify for the playoffs. This is the next round of the competition. The teams who placed between 7 and 10 (remember, out of 15) will then compete in something called the play-in tournament, which is a knockout tournament to see which two teams will fill the remaining two spots in each of the Conference playoffs.

The playoffs

In the NBA, each Conference (Eastern and Western) has three stages of Playoffs: the ‘First Round Playoffs’, the ‘Conference Semifinals’, and the ‘Conference Finals’.

A Playoff is not just one game – it is a best-of-seven series.

First-Round Playoffs: The top eight teams in each Conference are split into four groups of two. Each group plays a series of seven games against each other. The first team to win four games wins that playoff.

Conference Semifinals: Four winners from each Conference will progress to this next round. The four teams will be separated into two groups of two teams. The two teams in each group will then play against each other in a best-of-seven series.

Conference Finals: Two teams from each conference will emerge from the Semifinals. This means there are four teams left across both Conferences. The two teams in each Conference then face off (yes, in another best-of-seven series). This is the stage we’re at now – the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers are playing in the Eastern Conference Final, and the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves are playing in the Western Conference Final.

The next stage is the NBA Championships! The winners of both Conference finals will play each other (you guessed it, in a best-of-seven series) for the final prize: the NBA Championship.

2024 NBA Finals

The NBA Finals this year will be contested between the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics, who won the Western and Eastern conference titles respectively.

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