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How Many NBA Games in a Season?

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Whether you’re here because it’s the start of a long grueling season, it’s coming down to the wire or somewhere in between, you have questions about the NBA schedule. 

If all goes according to plan, the NBA season should last from fall to spring time of the following calendar year.

The plan can always be disrupted by league lock-out or something like a pandemic (i.e. COVID-19). But let’s put those possibilities on the side for now.

In terms of games played, the NBA season is longer than that of the NFL, while shorter than Major League Baseball. Fun last fact, it’s actually equal in game length to the NHL season (continue reading for the exact count).

Those account for the “big four” North American sports leagues. 

And you can consider (more or less) how intense the season can be on a player’s body based on game count.

But I digress. Let’s answer the question you came here for and illustrate additional fun facts related to the NBA season.

How many NBA Games in a season?

Each NBA team plays 82 games during the season which runs from October to April. Following the end of the regular season, teams ranked 7-10th place from each conference compete in a play-in tournament to qualify for the playoffs. There are 16 teams that make the playoffs which compete in an elimination series which lasts up to four rounds.

When you include the preseason and playoffs, teams that make a deep run to the finals are guaranteed to play over 100 games on the season. 

Keep in mind that playoffs will lengthen the season by up to two months and earn players additional compensation throughout each round.

Embed from Getty Images

How many home games in the NBA season?

Each NBA team will play 41 home games throughout the season. Basically, teams divide their schedule to play an even number of home (41) and away games (41).

There are exceptions to the rule as when two teams promote a regular season game in a country internationally. 

For example, the Miami Heat play the San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City in December 2022. Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons will square off in Paris, France in January 2023.

Once teams reach the playoffs, the home/away game parity can be affected. 

That is because each playoff round is a best-of-seven elimination series, with home advantage to the higher-ranked team.

However, since it’s first to four wins to end the series, there’s no guarantee how many home/away games will be played.

At minimum, each team gets to play two home games each, with the series game format of 2-2-1-1-1. Which essentially means 2-home games, followed by 2-away games, 1-home, 1-away, 1-home game for the higher ranked team.

How many NBA Preseason Games?

For two weeks prior to the start of the regular season, NBA teams will between 4-6 preseason games. 

The preseason games take place during late September and early October.

This allows the coaches and managers to evaluate new players and bring their established players back up to game form.

New players consist of rookies, draft picks, players from affiliate teams (i.e. G League) and those recently signed.

First-time NBA players are given a chance to battle for a spot on the opening-day roster. They can potentially challenge well-established players for their spots.

Meanwhile, coaches may experiment with different in-game strategies and see what works best for their line-ups.

How many Play-In Tournament Games?

Play-in tournaments were designed to allow teams ranked 7-10th position, from each conference, a chance to make the playoffs. This is also known as the Page–McIntyre system.

There are 6 play-in tournament games played between the eight teams.  

Teams ranked 7th and 8th teams square off, with the winner securing a spot in the playoffs.

The loser of this series is given a second chance to secure a playoff spot by playing against the winner of the match between the 9th and 10th place teams.

Should the 9th or 10th place team win both their play-in games, they will qualify for the playoffs instead.

NBA play-in tournament format

How many NBA Playoff Games?

NBA playoff teams can play anywhere from 4 to 28 games during the playoffs. 

There are four best-of-7 elimination rounds in the playoffs. The first team to win 4 games will continue on to the next round.

So, if a team loses the first 4 games in the opening round of the playoffs, they are eliminated from competition and the other team advances onto round 2. 

Meanwhile, a team can play all 7 games in each round, win those series by a 4-3 margin and totaling 28 games played. 

The same could be happen to the runner up in the NBA Finals, except that for losing the last series 4-3.

Take note that the NBA Champions must win 16 games throughout the playoffs to secure the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy. 

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NBA Full Season Game Count

In an NBA season, the league schedules 1,230 games in the calendar year for all 30 teams.

The math for game count is done as follows:

(82 games x 30 teams)/2 = 1,230 Total NBA Games

Note - We divide by two because every team plays one another.

Final Thoughts

The 82-game NBA season has been in place since 1967-68. As mentioned earlier, some seasons were cut short due to lockout and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the 2012-13 season, the game between the Celtics and Pacers was cancelled altogether because of the Boston Marathon Incident. 

It occurred at the tail-end of the season and was not rescheduled because it played no impact to their rankings. As a note, both teams had already clinched playoff spots.

Prior to 1967-68, NBA teams played (as of 1949-50) anywhere between 62-81 games in a season.

Lastly, the play-in tournament was introduced in the 2019-20 NBA season. This is because the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Teams had played an unequal amount of games up to that point, so play-in tournament was considered for 1 team in playoff contention.

A series between the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers was scheduled as the former finished half a game (games behind) behind in the standings

For more info on the term Games Behind, check out my blog post here on What does GB mean in basketball?

Since the Trail Blazers won the game, they automatically advanced to the playoffs. Had the Grizzlies won, they would have played each other once more for the last playoff spot.

In the end, the NBA integrated the Page–McIntyre system for play-in tournament where the 7th to 10th seeds of each conference compete for the last two playoff spots.