As soon as March Madness is over, most basketball fan’s attention turns to the NBA Playoffs. Most NBA seasons typically see one or many teams competing for one of the 16 coveted playoff spots down to one of the last games of the season. In the event one or many teams are tied in the regular season standings, the NBA applies a series of tie breaking rules to either determine seeding or even who makes the playoffs if the teams are tied for the 8th seed in their respective conference.
NBA Playoff Format
The current NBA seeding system for the playoffs was implemented on August 3rd, 2006. Once the NBA regular season concludes, the top eight teams in each of the conferences qualifies for the NBA playoffs and are seeded from #1 to #8 within their respective conference. For each of the three NBA divisions in the East and West Conferences, there is a division champion who is entitled to one of the four top seeds in the conference. The fourth team seeded in the “Top 4” is the next best team in the top four. This guarantees that every divisional champion will be no worse than a four seed and also help ensure that the best “two” teams in each conference will be the top two seeds even if they do not win their division.
NBA Playoff Tiebreakers
In the event there are two or three teams that are tied in the standings, there will be a series of tiebreakers applied to each team to determine which one will earn the
higher seed (or even make the playoffs in some cases!).
Two-Team Tiebreaker for the NBA Playoffs:
1. Division winner (this criteria is applied regardless of the division assignment of each NBA team).
2. Better record in head-to-head games
3. Higher winning percentage within division (if teams are in the same division)
4. Higher winning percentage in conference games
5. Higher winning percentage against playoff teams in own conference
6. Higher winning percentage against playoff teams in opposite conference
7. Higher point differential between points scored and points allowed
Three-Team Tiebreaker for the NBA Playoffs:
1. Division winner (this criterion is applied regardless of whether the tied teams are in the same NBA division or not).
2. Best head-to-head winning percentage among all teams tied
3. Highest winning percentage within division (if teams are in the same division)
4. Highest winning percentage in conference games
5. Highest winning percentage against playoff teams in own conference
6. Highest point differential between points scored and points allowed