Lakers vs. Warriors: How the NBA’s play-in tournament works

Lakers forward LeBron James looks to drive against Warriors guard Stephen Curry.
Lakers forward LeBron James looks to drive against Warriors guard Stephen Curry during a game earlier this season. They will play Wednesday with the seventh seed in the playoffs on the line.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

LeBron James might not think much of it, but the inaugural NBA play-in tournament has given the first week of the NBA postseason — and we’re calling the tournament for what it is, a quasi-playoff — a sizzle that hasn’t previously existed in the most predictable opening round in major professional sports.

On Wednesday night, the Lakers, owner of the Western Conference’s seventh-best record, will host the No. 8 Golden State Warriors at Staples Center in a matchup that has ratings gold written all over it. (Less so for the conference’s other matchup: a Memphis Grizzlies-San Antonio Spurs showdown earlier Wednesday night.)

The winner of those games ... well, this is where it starts to get mildly complicated. Here’s a primer on how the four-day tournament will work.

The Times’ Kobe Bryant Hall of Fame commemorative edition

The teams with the seventh- and eighth-best records in each conference will play a single game with the winner securing the No. 7 seed for the playoffs, which begin next weekend. The winner of the Lakers-Warriors game will advance to play the second-seeded Phoenix Suns, which in itself will be a riveting showdown regardless of the Suns’ opponent.


Meanwhile, the teams with the ninth- and 10th-best records in each conference will face off, with the loser going home for the summer. The winner will play the loser of the 7/8 matchup, with the winner of that second play-in game securing the No. 8 playoff seed. Should the Lakers lose to the Warriors, then defeat the winner of the Spurs-Grizzlies game, they will play the Utah Jazz in a seven-game series starting Sunday.

Got it?

Here’s the play-in schedule:


First round


10 San Antonio at 9 Memphis, 4:30, ESPN (loser eliminated)

8 Golden State at 7 Lakers, 7, ESPN (winner seeded 7th)

Second round



9-10 winner at 7-8 loser, 7, ESPN (winner seeded 8th)


First round


8 Charlotte at 7 Indiana, 3:30, TNT (winner seeded 7th)

10 Washington at 9 Boston, 6, TNT (loser eliminated)

Second round


9-10 winner at 7-8 loser, 5, TNT (winner seeded 8th)