Since the 73-9 Golden State Warriors lost the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2016, the number of people who say the regular season is irrelevant has multiplied in size.

They’d have you believe that there’s nothing much to play for. The league’s best teams are already determined at the beginning of the year and it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that they’ll meet each other in the postseason.

That isn’t true — the regular season does matter. It determines playoff seeding. And seeding matters because home-court advantage is a real thing.

Here’s a bit of a refresher course on how seeding is supposed to works in the postseason.

How playoff seeding works

The top eight seeds from both the Eastern and Western Conferences are ranked 1 through 8 by record. The top four teams in each conference get home-court advantage through the first round of the playoffs.

In each round, the higher seeded team gets home-court advantage in the postseason. The No. 1 seed gets home-court throughout the postseason. If the two No. 1 seeds from both conferences were to meet in the Finals, the team with the best regular-season record would retain home-court.

How home-court advantage works in the playoffs

Each series in the NBA postseason is played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format. The team with the highest seed always gets four home games in a seven-game series and also plays the first two games of the series at home.

It hasn’t always been this way. The NBA Finals used to be played in a 2-3-2 format. That meant higher seed played their first two games at home, the next three on the road and the final two back at home in a best-of-seven series.

How a tie in the standings is settled

If two teams have the same record at the end of the year, their standing is determined by a number of tie breakers.

First, they look at head-to-head results. The team that won the season series ends up with the higher seed. If that doesn’t resolve the tie, things get a bit wonky. Bear with me a bit.

If the head-to-head record is the same, if one is a division champ that team is the higher seed. If neither team is a division champion, whichever ranks higher in their division becomes the higher seed. If the two teams aren’t in a division together, their win-loss percentage against other teams in the conference will break the tie.

The future of the playoffs

All of this might get a bit tricky down the line with some league changes that could potentially be on the way. The league is discussing changing the playoff format to reseeding the four conference finalists and could include a play-in game.

That would mean we could potentially see two teams from the same conference matching up in the NBA Finals. This isn’t a totally foreign concept — the WNBA’s Finals features the league’s two best teams regardless of conference already.

That won’t all be decided for a while, though. Until then, these are the rules the league is going by.

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