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NBA announces structure for 2020-21 season schedule

The NBA has a plan in place for the 2020-21 NBA season. We break down how schedules of opponents are figured out, and key dates across the league calendar.

Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards players kneel behind a Black Lives Matter logo on the court before a NBA basketball game in the Visa Athletic Center at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Wednesday evening, and the night before, the league announced the structure of the coming 2020-2021 regular season. The league released the list of opponents for each team, but will release the game dates in two segments. The league will release the schedule for the first half of the season near the start of training camp. The league will release the second half of the schedule during the latter part of the first half of the schedule.

The opponent breakdown of each team’s schedule is as follows. The league also created a matrix of opponents for each team.

  • Each team will play three games against each intraconference opponent (42 total games per team), with each pairing featuring either two home games and one road game or one home game and two road games.Within each team’s division, the league office has randomly assigned which two opponents will be played twice at home and which two opponents will be played twice on the road.
  • All five teams from within a division will play all five teams from one other intraconference division twice at home, and all five teams from the remaining intraconference division twice on the road.
  • Each team will play two games against each interconference opponent (30 total games per team), with each pairing featuring one home game and one road game.

The league released a variety of dates for a tentative 2020-21 schedule calendar:

  • Dec. 11-19, 2020: Preseason games
  • Dec. 22, 2020 – March 4, 2021: First Half of regular season
  • March 5-10, 2021: All-Star break
  • March 11 – May 16, 2021: Second Half of regular season
  • May 18-21, 2021: Play-In Tournament
  • May 22 – July 22, 2021: 2021 NBA Playoffs

The Play-In Tournament, which will take place after the regular season and before the first round of the playoffs, will include the teams with the seventh-highest through the tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference.

The teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot. The teams with the ninth-highest and tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have to win two consecutive games to earn a playoff spot.

At the conclusion of the regular season, the team with the seventh-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the eighth-highest winning percentage in its conference in a Play-In Game (the “Seven-Eight Game”). The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will be the seventh seed in the playoffs for its conference.

The team with the ninth-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the tenth-highest winning percentage in its conference in a Play-In Game (the “Nine-Ten Game”). The loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a Play-In Game, and the winner of that game will be the eighth seed in the playoffs for its conference.