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Playoffs 2020

NBA Playoffs 2020: Play-in tournament bears resemblance to unique history of win-and-you're-in games

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Blazers-Grizzlies (NBA Getty Images)

For years, there have been wild card rounds in other professional sports and college basketball has had play-in games as part of March Madness.

Now, for the first time, the NBA has adopted a similar model during its restart with a play-in tournament for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

MORE: All you need to know about the NBA's play-in tournament

We've never seen anything quite like this before but there have been a few instances that were somewhat similar. Since the NBA adopted an eight-team postseason format in 1984, there have been three instances where two teams played for the final playoff spot on the final night of the NBA season.

Here's what went down…

2018 - Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

On the final night of the 2017-18 regular season, the Nuggets (46-35) visited the Timberwolves (46-35) for the final spot in the NBA Playoffs.

Led by 31 points, five assists and five rebounds from Jimmy Butler and a 26-point, 14-rebound double-double from Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves earned a 112-106 win to end a 13-year playoff drought.

As the West's No. 8 seed, Minnesota would lose in five games to James Harden, Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets.

1997 - Washington Bullets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland (42-39) hosted Washington (43-38) for the opportunity to take on Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the first round of the 1997 playoffs. Behind Chris Webber's double-double (23 points, 17 rebounds), the Bullets defeated Cleveland by a final score of 85-81.

Washington finished the season with a record of 44-38 and ended its nine-year postseason drought, but they didn't stick around all that long. Jordan, Pippen and the rest of the crew swept the Bullets en route to the 1997 NBA championship.

1995 - Sacramento Kings vs. Denver Nuggets

The Kings (39-42) visited Denver (40-41) for a shot to make the postseason for the first time since 1986. The Nuggets were one year removed from being the first-ever No. 8 team to defeat a No. 1 seed in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Nuggets earned their second consecutive playoff appearance with a 102-89 victory over the Kings. Dikembe Mutombo filled the stat sheet in the win, finishing with 13 points, 19 rebounds, five assists and four blocks.

As far as first-round upsets go, history did not repeat itself for the No. 8 Nuggets in 1995. David Robinson and the Spurs swept Denver in the first round, winning all three games by an average margin of 15.3 points.

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