How to Live Stream the NBA Playoffs (2021)

Don't miss a moment of action on the court even if you've cut the cord

The NBA playoffs are when the 16 best teams in the league face off in an exciting clash to see who will emerge victoriously. If you don't want to miss a moment of the action on the court, and you've cut the cord, then the best way to stream the NBA playoffs is through a streaming service like YouTube TV or Sling TV.

The NBA's 2020-2021 season will start no sooner than December 25. Visit ESPN for the final playoff matchups.

Since the individual games are scattered across four different networks, we've done the legwork to find your best bet for streaming the NBA playoffs to your computer, phone, set-top box, or even game console.

Sports fan streaming NBA playoffs
Alison Czinkota / Lifewire

Dates and times are finalized just prior to playoffs, and there are provisions for each round to start a couple of days earlier depending on when the previous round finishes. Check local listings for specific days/times for each game.

How to Watch NBA Playoffs Games

NBA playoff games are broadcast on four different channels, including three cable channels and one major network. If you're a cord-cutter, and you don't have access to cable television, then you're in danger of missing most of the action.

For cord-cutters, the best way to catch the NBA playoffs is through a live streaming television service.

If you want to watch every game in the NBA playoffs, or at least have the option, then these are the channels that you'll need to have access to:

  • ABC: For the 17th consecutive year, ABC has the sole rights to broadcast the NBA Finals. So if you want to watch the finals, you absolutely need access to ABC.
  • ESPN: ESPN has the rights to the Western Conference Finals. So if your team is playing in the Western Conference Finals, you need to prioritize ESPN.
  • TNT: The Eastern Conference Finals' rights are owned by TNT. So if your team is set to play in the Eastern Conference Finals, prioritize TNT.
  • NBA TV: Some first-round games will air on NBA TV, so if you don't want to miss anything, it's worth finding a package that includes this network.
  • Regional sports networks: These networks have the rights to broadcast first-round games that involve local teams. So if your local team makes it to the first round, you can count on your regional sports network. The exception is that if a game is broadcast on ABC, it won't be available on your regional sports network.

How to Access NBA Playoff Live Streams From ABC, TNT, ESPN, and NBA TV

Since individual games will appear on four different networks, the best way to stream the NBA playoffs is to use a streaming service that includes all four.

These streaming services essentially offer a direct replacement for cable or satellite television, because they allow you to stream live television over the internet. All you need is a computer, a phone, a streaming device or service like Roku, or even a game console that's connected to high-speed internet.

While these services all do the same basic thing, they all offer different combinations of channels. That means some of them offer access to every NBA playoff game, some only give you access to one set of conference games, and others have some combination of the two.

These services all offer some type of free trial, so you can get started streaming the NBA playoffs without paying anything upfront.

Here are your options, including the relevant channels they offer:

YouTube TV Yes Yes Yes Most markets
Hulu With Live TV Yes Yes No Most markets
DirecTV Now Yes Yes Yes (Some plans) Most markets
Sling TV Yes Yes Add-on Limited markets
fuboTV No Yes Yes Most markets

For most people, YouTube TV will represent the best option for streaming NBA playoff games. It includes ESPN, TNT, NBA TV, and also has ABC in most markets.

DirecTV Now is a viable option as well, but the channels you need are only included with more expensive plans. Sling TV is also a fine option if you live in one of the select markets where they offer ABC as an add-on.

The worst options for streaming the NBA playoffs are Fubo TV, since ESPN isn't included, and Hulu with Live TV, because NBA TV isn't included.

Since the NBA finals are only available on ABC, and the availability of ABC differs from one service to the next depending on the specific deals each one has signed, it's important to actually check each service to see if ABC is available in your ZIP code. While YouTube TV is the best option for most people, it's imperative that you check to make sure that YouTube TV actually offers ABC in your zip code.

Live Stream the NBA Playoffs on Your Phone, Tablet, or Streaming Device

If you want to watch the NBA playoffs on your mobile device, set-top box, or game console, here are the apps you'll need:

We're including links to the YouTube TV app because that service offers the best NBA playoffs coverage, at the best price, for most people. The other streaming services all have their own mobile apps, so make sure to check them out if you choose a different service.

How to Stream the NBA Playoffs

Once you've decided which streaming service provides the best access to the specific playoff games you want to watch, you're ready to go. You'll have to sign up for a free trial, then visit the streaming service on your computer, or launch the connected app, on game day.

Here's how to stream the NBA playoffs through the streaming service of your choice:

  1. Sign up for a free trial of one of the streaming services we showed you in the previous section.

    A screenshot of the YouTube TV free trial.
  2. On game day, navigate to the streaming service website, or open the associated app on your mobile device.

    A screenshot of YouTube TV.
  3. Locate the playoff game you want to watch, and click or tap it.

    A screenshot of YouTube TV
  4. That's it, you're streaming an NBA playoff game.

Using Ace Stream to Watch the NBA Playoffs for Free

If you aren't able to use any of the official sources that we have provided above, the next best option for streaming NBA playoff games is a program called Ace Stream. This software is a media player, but it streams audio and video instead of playing files that you've already downloaded.

Since Ace Stream relies on streams provided by other users, you won't always get the best quality of audio or video. It can also be difficult to find streams for some events, although the NBA playoffs are popular enough that streams are usually available.

To stream the NBA Playoffs with this method, you first need to download and install Ace Stream. If you don't already have it installed, and you've never used it before, then you may want to check out our guide to streaming sports online with Ace Stream.

After you finish installing Ace Stream, the last step is to find a content ID for the NBA playoff game you want to stream. The content ID is basically an address that the player uses to find the stream.

One good place to find content IDs, and links to other NBA playoff streams, is the NBA Streams subreddit. You can also find similar content on Discord.

Failing that, the next best way to find a content ID is to use your favorite search engine. For instance, to find NBA playoff streams, you would search for:

2021 NBA playoffs Ace Stream content ID

Ace Stream content IDs are free. Do not pay anyone for a content ID, and be careful when visiting sites that offer content IDs. Don't click on any suspicious links or ads, and consider installing a good ad-blocker.

Free Online Sports Websites to Stream the NBA Playoffs

When all else fails, you may have to resort to an unofficial free online sports streaming website. These sites don't officially have the rights to broadcast NBA games, or any other games, so they link to free streams instead.

If you live in an area where you aren't able to sign up for any of our recommended streaming services, or you aren't able to access ABC due to there being no ABC affiliate in your area, this may be your only option.

Here are the names of some free sports streaming sites that usually provide NBA playoff games:

  • Stream2Watch
  • FromHot
  • Bosscast
  • Cricfree

For more information about these websites, check out our full guide to streaming free sports online.

Sites that provide free access to sports streams like the NBA playoffs are often supported by intrusive or even malicious ads that can potentially hijack your browser or install malware on your computer. Prior to visiting one of these sites, consider installing a good ad-blocker plugin and white list only sites you trust.