How Many Times Does Each NBA Team Play Each Other?

Jimmy Remland
By Jimmy Remland 6 Min Read
6 Min Read

Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual observer, understanding the intricacies of the NBA schedule can enhance your appreciation for the game. So, let’s break it down and explore how many times each NBA team plays its rivals during the season.

1. The NBA Schedule Structure

Before we delve into the specifics, let’s establish the framework. The NBA regular season consists of 82 games for each team. These games are spread across the months from October to April of the following year. Within this extensive schedule, teams engage in a series of matchups, creating a thrilling narrative throughout the season.

2. Divisional Showdowns: 16 Games

The foundation of the NBA schedule lies in divisional play. Each team belongs to one of the league’s six divisions: three in the Eastern Conference and three in the Western Conference. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors
  • Central Division: Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Southeast Division: Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards
  • Northwest Division: Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz
  • Pacific Division: Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings
  • Southwest Division: Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs

Within their own division, teams face off against each other four times during the regular season. That’s a total of 16 games dedicated to intense divisional rivalries. These matchups are crucial for playoff seeding and bragging rights within the division.

3. Conference Battles: 36 Games

Beyond divisional clashes, NBA teams engage in interconference games within their own conference. Here’s how it works:

  • Teams play against each opponent from the other two divisions in their conference either three or four times throughout the season.
  • The exact breakdown of games can vary slightly from year to year due to scheduling adjustments, but the total remains consistent at 36 games.
  • Some years, a team may face a particular opponent more frequently than others in this category.

4. Cross-Conference Duels: 30 Games

The final piece of the puzzle involves matchups with teams from the opposing conference. Each season, every NBA team plays the 15 teams in the other conference twice: once at home and once on the road. This results in a total of 30 games against cross-conference foes.


The NBA Playoffs and the Quest for Glory

Let’s shift our focus to the thrilling postseason and the road to the coveted NBA Finals.

1. The Playoff Picture

The NBA playoffs are a high-stakes affair, where teams compete for a chance at the ultimate glory. Here’s how it all unfolds:

  • 16 teams from the league make it to the playoffs.
  • The top eight teams from each conference (based on regular-season records) qualify.
  • These teams are seeded from 1 to 8, with the best record securing the top seed.
  • The playoffs follow a best-of-seven series format, ensuring intense battles and potential upsets.

2. The First Round: A Battle Royale

The first round pits the top seed against the eighth seed, the second seed against the seventh, and so on. Each matchup is a grueling test of skill, strategy, and endurance. Here’s where the regular-season performance pays off:

  • The higher-seeded team enjoys home-court advantage for Games 1, 2, 5, and 7.
  • The lower-seeded team hosts Games 3, 4, and 6.
  • The goal? Win four games before your opponent does.

3. The Conference Semifinals: Raising the Stakes

As the playoffs progress, the intensity ramps up. The eight remaining teams battle it out in the conference semifinals. Key points:

  • The matchups are determined by the first-round results.
  • The format remains best-of-seven.
  • The stakes are higher, as teams inch closer to the conference finals.

4. The Conference Finals: The Final Hurdle

The conference finals are where legends are made. The last two teams standing in each conference clash for supremacy. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The format remains the same: best-of-seven.
  • The winners of these series earn a ticket to the NBA Finals.
  • The atmosphere is electric, with fans on the edge of their seats.

5. The NBA Finals: The Grand Finale

And now, the moment basketball enthusiasts eagerly await—the NBA Finals. The Eastern Conference champion faces off against the Western Conference champion. Here’s the grand finale breakdown:

  • The format? You guessed it—best-of-seven.
  • The team with the better regular-season record enjoys home-court advantage for Games 1, 2, 5, and 7.
  • The other team hosts Games 3, 4, and 6.
  • The quest for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy reaches its climax.

6. The Sweet Taste of Victory

When a team emerges victorious in the NBA Finals, they etch their names in history. The joy, tears, and celebrations resonate across the globe. Players hoist the trophy, confetti rains down, and fans revel in the triumph.

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