Making the NBA playoffs in 2021 is a little more complicated than it has been in years past. While there are still eight postseason teams in each conference, the new play-in tournament has cut down the numbers of teams that clinch a playoff berth at the end of the regular season.

Only the top six seeds in the East and West earn an automatic spot in the final playoff picture. Teams seeded No. 7-10 in each conference will compete in the two-round tournament in between the conclusion of the regular season and the start of the postseason.

How does the play-in tournament determine each conference’s final two playoff teams?

The No. 7 and No. 8 seeds have an advantage. They only need one victory to make the postseason. The No. 9 and No. 10 seeds can only make the playoffs by winning two straight games.

In the first round of the play-in tournament, each conference’s No. 7 seed will host the No. 8 seed. The No. 9 seed will host the No. 10 seed in the first round.

The winner of the 7-8 matchup advances to the playoffs as the No. 7, earning a matchup with the No. 2 seed in the conference quarterfinals. The loser of the 9-10 matchup is eliminated from contention.

The team that loses the 7-8 matchup still has one more chance to reach the postseason. That team will host the winner of the 9-10 matchup in the second-round of the play-in tournament. The team that wins the one-game second-round matchup advances to the playoffs at the No. 8 seed.

The No. 8 seed will face the No. 1 seed in the conference quarterfinals.

The 2021 play-in tournament starts May 18. The play-in tournament concludes May 21, the day before the NBA playoffs officially tip-off.

Anthony Davis #3 and Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as they are helped up off the floor by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 and Andre Drummond #2, after their collision, during the first quarter against the LA Clippers at Staples Center Anthony Davis #3 and Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as they are helped up off the floor by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 and Andre Drummond #2, after their collision, during the first quarter against the LA Clippers at Staples Center Photo: Getty Images | Harry How