When Do NBA Playoffs 2021 Start? Schedule, Full Bracket and Odds

The regular season is over and the NBA Playoffs bracket is set. Well, almost. The identity of 12 of the 16 teams that will take part in the postseason is known, with the two remaining teams in each conference to be determined by a play-in tournament that begins on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Lakers, the defending NBA champions, are one of them. Can the Purple and Gold negotiate their way through the play-in tournament and emerge as potentially the most dangerous No. 7 seed in recent memory, or will their title defense end before the playoffs even begin?

Aside from the Lakers, there is plenty of intrigue elsewhere. Can the Brooklyn Nets keep their Big Three fit enough to clinch a first NBA title in franchise history, and how will the New York Knicks fare in a first playoff appearance in eight years? Will the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz live up to their No. 1 billings in their respective conferences, or will they crumble under pressure?

Here's all you need to know about the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

Which teams are in the NBA Playoffs?

The Philadelphia 76ers and the Utah Jazz claimed the top spots in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference respectively. The Sixers went 49-23, while the Jazz finished with a league-best 52-20 record. The Brooklyn Nets (48-24) finished with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, followed by the Milwaukee Bucks (46-26) and the New York Knicks (41-31), who return to the postseason for the first time since 2013.

The Bucks will face the Miami Heat (40-32), last season's Eastern Conference champions, in the first round, while the Knicks will take on the Atlanta Hawks (41-31), who make their first playoff appearance since 2017.

The Boston Celtics (36-36), Washington Wizards (34-38), Indiana Pacers (34-38) and Charlotte Hornets (33-39), meanwhile, will have to negotiate the play-in tournament to determine the final two playoff teams.

The final 2020-21 NBA regular season standings!#StateFarmPlayIn starts Tuesday on TNT pic.twitter.com/bbIS0B9ga1

— NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2021

In the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns were only the second team in the entire NBA after the Jazz to win more than 50 games as they finished 51-21, the conference's second-best record. The Denver Nuggets (47-25), which made it all the way to the Western Conference finals last season, will face the Portland Trail Blazers (42-30) in the first round in a repeat of the 2019 Western Conference semifinals after clinching the No. 3 seed. The Los Angeles Clippers (47-25) and the Dallas Mavericks (42-30), meanwhile, will cross paths in the first round after ending the season as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, respectively.

The Los Angeles Lakers (42-30) and Golden State Warriors (39-33) finished with the seventh- and eighth-best record in the conference and will face each other in the play-in tournament, as will the San Antonio Spurs (38-34) and Memphis Grizzlies (33-39), the No. 10 and No. 9 seed.

James Harden and Kevin Durant
James Harden #13 high-fives Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center on May 15 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Nets won 105-91. Sarah Stier/Getty Images

NBA Playoffs bracket

Numbers in bracket denotes seed

Eastern Conference

  • No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 8 TBD
  • No. 2 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 7 TBD
  • No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 6 Miami Heat
  • No. 4 New York Knicks vs. No. 5 Atlanta Hawks

Western Conference

  • No. 1 Utah Jazz vs. No. 8 TBD
  • No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 7 TBD
  • No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers
  • No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks

NBA play-in tournament format

The winner of the matchup between the No. 7 and No. 8 seed will qualify to the playoffs as the seventh seed, while the loser will face the winner of the game between the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds for the final postseason berth.

The loser of the game between the No.9 and No. 10 seed will be automatically eliminated from playoff contention.

Eastern Conference—Tuesday, May 18

  1. Charlotte Hornets at Indiana Pacers—6:30 p.m. ET, TNT
  2. Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics—9 p.m. ET, TNT

Western Conference—Wednesday, May 19

  1. San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies—7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  2. Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers—10 p.m. ET, ESPN

Eastern Conference—Thursday, May 20

  • Winner of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2—8 p.m. ET, TNT

Western Conference—Friday, May 21

  • Winner of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2—TBD, ESPN

The 2021 #NBAPlayoffs and #StateFarmPlayIn Bracket!

Full schedule ➡️ https://t.co/DNE7pJlpQB pic.twitter.com/NidaRNQh1k

— NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2021

NBA playoffs odds

At 2-1 with DraftKings and FanDuel and 11-5 with William Hill, the Brooklyn Nets are the bookmakers' favorite to win the NBA title this season

In Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving the Nets have a superstar trio and the most potent offense in the league—they have the highest offensive rating in the NBA and have scored the second-most points per game.

The problem, however, is that since acquiring Harden in a blockbuster trade back in January, the Nets have been able to play their Big Three together in just eight games due to a series of minor injuries and coronavirus-related issues.

The Lakers follow suit at 4-1 with William Hill and DraftKings and 5-1 with FanDuel, despite the fact they may not even make it to the playoffs as they have to negotiate the play-in tournament. As is the case with the Nets, the Lakers' main issue has been keeping LeBron James and Anthony Davis fit this season. However, should the Lakers' duo be fully fit for the postseason, don't rule out the defending champions' chances of winning back-to-back titles.

The Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz have the next-shortest odds at 6-1 and 7-1 respectively, while the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks are both 8-1. The Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets are 14-1 and 30-1 outsiders, while the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks are both 40-1 long shots.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

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