Yes, for those of you who have only been half paying attention to this awkwardly produced NBA season, there is a postseason before a postseason. May Madness, if you will. This is not your normal NBA season.
Teams that finish seventh and eighth in the standings will not be automatically punching a ticket to the playoffs this year. Instead, they'll only clinch an invite behind an initial red-velvet rope that leads to a space between themselves and the actual NBA playoffs that are blocked off by bodyguards and another rope.
Yup. It's weird. And if you're not a fan of the idea, you're not alone. LeBron James hates it so much he said whoever thought of the idea should be fired.
Below, you'll find a breakdown of how the seedings and games will play out once the teams in the Play-In tournament are set:
It's the playoffs before the playoffs, that isn't really the playoffs. It's a pre-playoffs.
Pause for clarity here: The sixth seed, where the Heat currently resides, skips the Play-In nonsense. You want the sixth seed. OK, carrying on.
You may be asking yourself exactly what the winners of the Play-In tournament receive. The answer? The NBA playoffs. The teams that come out of the Play-In will get the seventh- and eighth-seeded positions in each conference. After the Play-In Tournament is complete, the real NBA Playoffs start, with the traditional 16-team, best-of-seven series structure.
Got it? Good. Because it's new to everyone and weird to most. Moving forward, Miami has the fourth-most difficult schedule in the NBA, while Boston has the 11th-easiest. Miami has already guaranteed itself a spot in the Play-In tournament at worst, but if the team plays well enough this coming week, the Heat can finish as high as the fourth seed.
It's a lot. Hopefully as we head into the final week of the season, this cleared things up a bit. If not, no worries — you'll be hearing a lot more about the NBA Play-In tournament this week.