Professional sports with long and complex schedules are hard to follow, and the NBA can appear that way, but there is an underlying structure present that can make it easier to understand. Once the schedule and the game structure is understood, then can watching the NBA become a lot more enjoyable.
How do NBA fixtures work? An NBA game features two teams playing each other, one of which is the road team, and the other which is the home team. The game is played at the home team’s arena. The game is composed of two halves with two quarters each, for a total of four quarters; the regulation length of each quarter is 12 minutes. The team with more points wins the game, and should the regulation 48 mins result in a tie, teams play overtime periods of 5 minutes each until a winner is decided. The NBA regular season features 82 games for each team, 41 away games and 41 home games.
What happens in the NBA regular season?
The NBA regular season takes up a large portion of the NBA calendar. Before the regular season gets underway, players participate in training camp and preseason games. Training camp is how coaches can analyze and prepare their roster of players including incumbent players and new additions via trades, free agency, and the draft. Preseason games are also a form of gametime for new squads as well as exhibition games aimed at fans, sometimes in international locations.
The regular season starts in mid-to-late October, consisting of 82 games. Each team serves as the home team for half of their games (41 games) and as the away team for the remaining half of their games (41 games). “Home” or “away” is determined by the stadium in which the game is played: if the game is played in a team’s own stadium, than that team is playing a “home” game, and if they play in the opponent’s stadium, that is considered an “away” game (an interesting scenario: the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers share a stadium, but one team is still considered home or away when they play against each other).
The 82 games are split into division play, conference play, and non-conference play. The NBA is split into 2 conferences (Eastern Conference and Western Conference), and 3 divisions in each conference (total 6 divisions) with 5 teams each. A team plays each of their division rivals 4 times each (4 division rivals, 4 games each = 16 games) and plays each non-conference team 2 times each (15 non-conference teams, 2 games each = 30 games).
Conference play includes games that teams play against other teams in their own conference but outside of their division (10 teams). The conference play game breakdown is as follows: 24 games (6 non-divisional conference teams, 4 games each = 24 games) and 12 games (4 non-divisional conference teams, 3 games each). For a series against teams with 3 games, teams play either 2 home games and 1 away game, or 1 home game and 2 away games; this is randomly assigned by the NBA. Likewise, the NBA uses a 5-year rotating schedule to determine which non-divisional conference teams are played 4 times and which teams are played 3 times.
There is no set structure for when and where games occur. The regular season schedule varies every season, with scheduling officials taking into account rest and travel for all 30 teams situated across the continent, which is no easy feat. As such, during some stretches of the season, teams play games on consecutive nights (back-to-back games), and sometimes they have a day or two between games. The players get a “break” in mid-February in what is known as All-Star Weekend (it’s certainly not a break for players who have to participate in the All-Star Game). After the conclusion of the regular season, the postseason can ensue.
What happens in the NBA postseason?
The NBA postseason is where the top teams from the regular season face each other to determine who’s the NBA champion. The top teams are based on the 10 top-ranked teams from each conference (based on win-loss record), who qualify for the postseason. The NBA postseason consists of two parts: the NBA Play-In Tournament and the NBA Playoffs. The top 6 teams from each conference automatically qualify for the NBA Playoffs, while the 7th through 10th place teams from each conference participate in the NBA Play-In Tournament to determine the 7th and 8th seeds for the playoffs (only 8 teams from each conference participate in the NBA Playoffs).
The NBA Playoffs consist of 4 rounds, and each matchup is a best-of-7 series (first team to win 4 games advances). The First Round consists of 8 total matchups, 4 matchups in each conference. The winners of the First Round advance to the Conference Semifinals which has 4 total matchups, 2 matchups in each conference. The 3rd round is the Conference Finals, with 2 total matchups: the remaining Eastern Conference teams play each other and the remaining Western Conference Champions. The winners of this round are considered conference champions, and they meet in the 4th and final round, the NBA Finals. Winners of this series are considered the champions of the NBA.
What happens in the NBA offseason?
The NBA offseason is the time between the postseason and the upcoming regular season, and while there are no games, it is still a very eventful period. The most anticipated activities during the offseason include the NBA Draft (where teams select young prospects to join their team) and free agency (where teams can sign players who are not contracted to a particular team). Roster construction during this period can go a long way in ensuring success for the team, either in the short-term (free agency) and/or the long-term (the NBA Draft).
The NBA regular season is an eventful time, and despite its length and numerous games, one should never forget that every game counts. With the incredible amount of talent in the league at present, there never really is a dull moment in the league on any given night, and the regular season often is a wild ride.