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How Often Do NBA Teams Face One-Another?

How Often Do NBA Teams Face One-Another?

The NBA, similar to the NHL, has one of the most grueling regular season formats in all professional sports. With 82 games in a regular season, NBA teams and players are expected to play 41 games at their home arena and the remaining 41 games at an away one.

With frequent travel and multiple back-to-back games, an NBA season can be grueling on an individual NBA player and requires careful scheduling and rest to reduce the likelihood of injury and fatigue.

However, with the NBA being composed of 30 individual franchise teams, just how often do NBA teams face one-another?

Below, we are going to discuss just how the NBA schedule is created, how often an individual team will play another team in their division, conference, and conference rivals, and how an NBA team can qualify for the playoffs, and eventually, the NBA Finals.

Who Determines the Schedule of the NBA Season?

Before the start of each season, each NBA team provides their availability to the NBA front office. This front office consists of Evan Wasch, the Executive Vice President of Basketball Strategy & Analytics at the NBA, Thomas A. Carelli, the Senior Vice President of Broadcasting for the NBA, and Byron Spruell, President of League Operations for the NBA, amongst others.

Together, the front office determines a teams availability and any conflicts the team may have with their respective WNBA and NHL partners who may share arena availability.

Similarly, the NBA’s front office will determine key-dates of play, including on Christmas Day and on Thanksgiving, ensuring that more marquee lineups are scheduled for those dates.

In addition, the NBA’s front office will need to ensure that certain dates are blocked off from play. This includes Christmas Eve, during the NBA All-Star Weekend, and during the NCAA Championship Game. On those dates, no NBA games are to be played or scheduled for play.

Lastly, the NBA’s front office will discuss scheduling with the NBA’s television partners, including TNT, ABC, and ESPN to ensure no conflicts occur and that the scheduled games can be accommodated by the national television partners.

Considerations Taken When Scheduling an NBA Season

As mentioned above, there are a multitude of differing considerations which must be taken into account before an NBA schedule can be completed. With differing priorities and commitments, the NBA’s front office and league teams must confirm availability of their team and their individual arenas.

Below, we have listed just a few of the considerations which must be taken into account while scheduling an NBA season.

  • Arena availability -perhaps the most difficult and important piece to scheduling an NBA season is the availability of an NBA arena. With many NBA arenas being multi-purpose and multi-use, the NBA front office must ensure that the arena is not in use on certain dates to allow for play.
  • Block Out Dates – similarly, a number of dates throughout the year are blocked off from play. These dates include Christmas Eve, the NBA All-Star Game Weekend, and the NCAA Championship Game day.
  • Holidays – in addition, certain dates such as Christmas Day and Thanksgiving are considered marquee dates. The NBA front office will look to have conference rivals and marquee matchups play on those dates to attract additional viewership.
  • NBA Television Broadcast Networks – lastly, the NBA’s front office will discuss any dates and game times with the NBA’s television broadcast networks. These networks, including TNT, ABC, and ESPN, will ensure availability and will resolve any game time issues before the start of the season.

NBA Scheduling Formula

In an effort to create a more compelling and equitable league, the NBA created divisions as a subclass within the conference system.  As there are two conferences, the Eastern and Western, consisting of 15 franchise teams, those 15 teams are further divvied into equal divisions of 5 apiece.

To be eligible for a playoff berth, an NBA team must have one of the top eight records within their conference.  Only the top eight teams within each conference are eligible for a playoff spot, with the seeding determining initial matchups.

However, with the inclusion of divisions within the two conferences, the top seeded teams within specific divisions and the team with the overall better record are eligible for preferential seeding in the event of ties and the same number of wins-and-losses for the season.

When determining and scheduling the upcoming NBA season, the NBA’s front office will do so in the following format.

  • 4 games against the other 4 division opponents (4×4=16 games)
  • 4 games against 6 (out-of-division) conference opponents (4×6=24 games)
  • 3 games against the remaining 4 conference teams (3×4=12 games)
  • 2 games against teams in the opposing conference (2×15=30 games)

From the above, we can see that the majority of games an NBA team will play will be against conference teams. This means that Eastern Conference teams can expect to play a majority of their games against other Eastern Conference teams, with Western Conference teams playing the majority of their games against other Western Conference games.

Similarly, in an effort to reduce fatigue, exhaustion, and overall costs, the NBA’s front office will look to group away games for an individual NBA team together. As an example, the New York Knicks may be expected to travel to the west coast, wherein they will face the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Phoenix Suns, and the Dallas Mavericks, before returning back home to New York.

Doing so allows for franchise NBA teams to save on travel costs, only having to travel to the opposite coast a handful of times throughout the season, while also reducing the overall fatigue and travel weariness on an NBA player.

How Do NBA Playoffs Work?

The NBA playoffs are comprised of the best 16 teams in the league, with 8 teams from each conference being eligible for the playoffs. However, having started in 2021, the NBA introduced a play-in tournament to allow for more competition for eligibility to the playoffs.

Below, we will explain exactly how the current NBA playoff format works.

  • The teams in each conference are ranked by their win-loss record from the regular season.
  • The top six teams with the most wins from each conference will progress to the NBA playoffs immediately
  • The 7th through 10th teams in each conference will then play for the remaining two spots in the play-in tournament.
    • The first play-in tournament is held between the 7th and 8th ranked teams, with the winner being given the seventh seed in the conference
    • The ninth placed team will play the tenth placed team, with the losing team being eliminated from playoff contention.
    • The winner of the second game will then play the losing team from the first game, with the winning team being awarded the eight seed in the playoffs.
  • Following the play-in tournament, the playoffs officially start and use a best-of-seven elimination format, with the 1st seeded team playing the 8th seeded, the 2nd seeded playing the 7th seeded, the 3rd seeded playing the 6th seeded, and the 4th seeded playing the 5th seeded team.
  • Following the initial series, the winner of the 1st vs. 8th seed will face the winner of the 4th vs. 5th seed and the winner of the 2nd vs. 7th seed will face the winner of the 3rd vs. 6th seed.
  • Following the second round, the winners from both series will face off, with the winning team advancing to the NBA Finals.