Regular Season Review

Eastern Conference — Review

The Brooklyn Nets opened the campaign as heavy favorites to finish atop the NBA Eastern Conference standings. But as the season progressed, injuries and COVID-19 issues took their toll. With Kevin Durant sidelined by injuries for almost two months, and Kyrie Irving prohibited from playing home games due to his vaccination status, the Nets saw their fast start fizzle during an epic 4-17 slide that temporarily dumped them to eighth place.

Sporting a lineup featuring budding stars like Tyler Herro and Bam Abedayo, and seasoned veterans like Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat established themselves as the team to beat in the East. Winners of 53 games, Miami enter the postseason as the top seed in the conference, and a legitimate threat to return to the NBA Finals for the sixth time in 12 years.

With Giannis Antetokounmpo once again leading the charge, the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks racked up 51 wins to claim a share of second place. The Bucks are joined by the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics shook off a slow start by going 35-12 over their final 47 games, and Joel Embiid earned MVP consideration while leading the Sixers to their third 50+ win campaign in five years.

Powered by this season’s Rookie of the Year, Scottie Barnes, the overachieving Toronto Raptors turned heads by winning 48 games. The Chicago Bulls, meanwhile, wound up in sixth, with a 46-36 record. Surprise conference finalists a year ago, the Atlanta Hawks return to the playoffs for a second straight year after tallying a pair of wins during the Play-In Tournament.

Western Conference — Review

After falling short last season in their first appearance in the NBA Finals since 1993, the Phoenix Suns were a dominant force in their return to action this season. Led by the dynamic duo of Devin Booker and Chris Paul, the Suns made a statement with an early-season 18-game win streak. Phoenix never looked back, finishing atop the NBA Western Conference standings with a franchise record 64 wins. However, the Suns face an enormous task in their bid to claim the first NBA championship in their 55-year history.

The Memphis Grizzlies also equaled a franchise record with 56 wins to claim second place in the conference standings. The Grizzlies have powered their resurgence by scoring 115.6 points per game, second best in the NBA, leaving them well positioned to claim their first playoff series win in seven years.

While both the Suns and Grizzlies look to seize elusive glory, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have their sights set on returning to the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight years after closing out their schedule with 53 wins and sole possession of third place.

The Utah Jazz need to reverse a shaky stretch run that limited them to 49 wins if they are to get past the second round for the first time since 2007. And they are not alone, as the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, and LA Clippers also seek to rewrite dismal postseason narratives during this season’s NBA Playoffs.

How do the NBA Playoffs Work?

As one of the most popular postseasons in world sport, the NBA Playoffs live up to the hype every single year. The eight best teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences are under the spotlight in knockout competition, creating memories that will live forever in sports history.

Below we run through the qualification process for 2022, including the Play-In tournament, explain how each series will play out, and breakdown routes to the NBA Finals.

The NBA Playoffs is the only postseason across major North American Sports where no team has overcome a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series.

Seeding & Qualification

In 2021, qualification for the NBA Playoffs changed. Before, the eight best teams for each conference qualified. But now, the top six qualify and a Play-In tournament determines the 7th and 8th seeds from each conference.

The tournament sees the 7th and 8th seeds face off, with the winner earning the 7th seed. The 9th seed and 10th seed play for the right to play the loser of the 7/8 seed game. Whoever wins that game earns the final spot in the playoffs and completes the NBA playoff picture.

Qualifying for the playoffs is one thing, but ensuring they qualify as the highest seed possible is front of mind for all teams. The four highest seeds get home-court advantage in the first round, and the 1st seed gets the same throughout all conference rounds.

The 1995 Houston Rockets are the lowest seed team to ever reach the NBA Finals and win the NBA Championship. They were seeded sixth in the Western Conference and entered the playoffs with a 47-35 record. On their way to victory, they defeated Utah, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Orlando; all teams with 50 wins in the regular season.

Playoff Series Explained

In the first round of the playoffs, the 1st seed faces the 8th, 2nd plays the 7th, and the seeding works inwards from there. The highest-seeded winner faces the lowest-seeded winner in the next round.

Each series lasts no more than seven games, meaning four wins is enough to progress to the next round. Due to how the seeding structure gives home advantage, series follow a 2-2-1-1-1 home and away format. So, over a seven-game series, the higher seed will play games 1, 2, 5, and 7 at home.

One of the biggest upsets in NBA Playoffs history came when the 8th seed Golden State Warriors beat the 1st seed Dallas Mavericks 4-2 in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. Before the action began, sportsbooks gave the Warriors a 5.9% chance of winning the series.

There is a two to four-day gap between each game in a series for the first two rounds, and then every other day for the conference semi-finals. Games are played every two to three days in the NBA Finals.

The fewest number of games a Championship winning team can play is 16; four games in each round of the playoffs. However, they might play as many as 28, if each series is decided in seven games, 4-3.

No team has ever gone 16-0; the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors came close. They won their first 15 games and ended up going 16-1. A team has yet to play four game sevens on the way to an NBA Championship, either.

The Boston Celtics hold the record for most playoff games played to win a championship (26).

NBA Finals

Following the same format as the other rounds in the NBA Playoffs, the Finals is the first series where Eastern Conference meets Western Conference.

Over a maximum of seven games, the NBA Champion 2022 will be crowned, and the winning players will get a coveted NBA Championship Ring.

Don’t forget that the NBA Finals will also be covered in the bracket above, so you can use this page throughout the entire postseason.

One of the most memorable game sevens in NBA Finals history was the 2016 game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. The Cavs pinched the game by 4 points with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving shooting for 27 and 26 points respectively. Cleveland’s 4-3 series win was the first time a team has ever won the NBA Championship from 3-1 down.