After a tough, lengthy 82-game regular season, the NBA Playoffs bring out a fresh wave of excitement. The best teams from both conferences are all together in one place to battle it out and see who will be the last team standing. Having a strong and effective playoff format is key to have a real demonstration of who’s the cream of the NBA’s crop.
How do the NBA Conference Finals work? The NBA Conference Finals are the 3rd and penultimate round of the NBA playoffs. It features two matchups: one between the two remaining Eastern Conference playoff teams, and one between the two remaining Western Conference teams. The NBA Conference Finals are a best-of-7 series: the first team to 4 wins advances to the NBA Finals. Winners of the Eastern Conference Finals receive the Bob Cousy Trophy while winners of the Western Conference Finals receive the Oscar Robertson Trophy.
Before going ahead, we wanted you to look at some of the recommendations we’ve picked for NBA fans. These are NBA essentials that all NBA fans should have. You can check out and buy these products from the NBA Store.
How does the NBA Playoffs format work?
The NBA has 2 components to a season: the regular season and the postseason, also known as the playoffs. The regular season consists of 82 games, and at its conclusion, the teams with the most wins qualify for the playoffs. Of the total 30 teams, 16 teams make it to the playoffs: 8 from the Eastern Conference and 8 from the Western Conference.
Before the NBA Playoffs start, the seeding has to be set. The top 6 teams from each conference automatically qualify. The 7th and 8th seeds for each conference are determined via the NBA Play-In Tournament. There are 2 rounds to this tournament for each conference, featuring the teams that rank 7th through 10th in their respective conferences. The first round sees the 7th-place team and the 8th-place team play each other in one game, and the other game features the 9th-place team seed and the 10th-place team go against each other. The winner of 7th-place vs 8th-place goes through to the NBA Playoffs as the 7th-seed team.
The winner of the 9th-place vs 10th-place team plays the loser of the 7th-place vs. 8th-place game in the 2nd round of the NBA Play-In Tournament. The winner of this matchup then qualifies as the 8th-seed team in the NBA Playoffs. The NBA Play-In Tournament happens between the end of the regular season and before the start of the NBA Playoffs, and all games are single-elimination games.
The NBA Playoffs consist of 4 rounds: the First Round, the Conference Semifinals, the Conference Finals, and the Finals. Each of these rounds feature a best-of-7 series, meaning that the team to get 4 wins advances to the next round; this may happen in 4 games (also known as a sweep) or 7 games, or any number in between. The first three rounds only feature conference play: Eastern Conference teams compete against each other and Western Conference teams compete against each other. Only the final round, the NBA Finals, feature interconference play (Eastern Conference team vs. Western Conference team).
The First Round consists of 4 matchups in each conference, for a total of 8 matchups. The winners of the First Round advance to the Conference Semifinals, which feature 2 matchups in each conference, for a total of 4 matchups. The winners of the Conference Semifinals advance to the Conference Finals, which feature one matchup in each conference, for a total of two matchups.
Winners of the Conference Finals are considered conference champions, and receive conference championship trophies; the NBA also started giving out Conference Finals MVP Awards in the 2021-22 NBA Playoffs. The Eastern Conference champion and the Western Conference champion compete against each other in the fourth and final round of the NBA Playoffs, the NBA Finals. Winners of this round are considered NBA champions and receive the Larry O’Brien NBA Finals Trophy; the best player also receives the NBA Finals MVP award.
Which team has won the most NBA Conference Finals?
The Los Angeles Lakers have won the most NBA Conference Finals, with a total of 19 wins. The Lakers also hold the most NBA Conference Finals appearances, 24. It’s no coincidence that the Lakers’ affinity for the Conference Finals means that they are also tied for the most NBA championships in NBA history, with 17 titles won (tied with the Boston Celtics). Interestingly, the Celtics only have 10 NBA Conference Finals wins in 21 appearances, despite winning 17 NBA championships; that is because a bulk of the Celtics’ titles (11, to be exact) came before the 1970-71 NBA season, which is when the NBA introduced Conference Finals.
Which NBA Conference has more NBA Finals wins?
There have been 76 editions of the NBA Playoffs, and no conference has yet to establish a significant dominance over the other. Currently, teams from the Eastern Conference have won 40 NBA championships, while teams from the Western Conference have won 36 NBA championships.
The regular season allows for fans to observe how their team stacks up to the rest of the conference, as well as the rest of the league. At the end of the regular season, the conference standings technically show who the top dog of the conference is. However, the Conference Finals are a different scenario: have the remaining two teams go at each other, back and forth in a best-of-7 series. It adds a lot more depth to matchups more than the regular season ever could. Sometimes, when two conference heavyweights meet, the Conference Finals are considered by fans to be the real championship.