This year’s NBA playoffs promise more intrigue than any in recent memory. With LeBron James safely out of the Eastern Conference mix, we’re guaranteed some new faces on that side of the bracket for the first time in eight years. The Western Conference is no less exciting, either, as the Warriors look to join the Jordan Bulls and Shaq/Kobe Lakers as the only teams to three-peat since the ’60s Celtics. Here’s how you can catch all of the games in the playoffs without paying an enormous cable bill.
Sign up for a live streaming service
Aside from a handful of NBA TV games in the first round, the NBA playoffs all take place entirely on three channels — ABC, ESPN, and TNT — so they’re fairly easy to stream without spending any money. Here’s how the schedules break down:
- Eastern Conference Finals: TNT
- Western Conference Finals: ESPN
- NBA Finals: ABC (and simulcast on ESPN 3)
If you have a TV antenna, you’ll be able to get by with that alone for the Finals, but for the preceding round, you’ll need to use a live TV streaming service. Fortunately, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, PlayStation Vue, DIRECTV NOW, and Sling all carry every channel you need to watch every game, and they all come with five- to seven-day free trials.
The longest possible timeline for the final two rounds of the NBA playoffs is May 12 to June 16, for a total of 35 days. That’s assuming all three series go to seven games, something that’s never happened in the league’s 73 years. Barring that historical unlikelihood, you’ll probably be able to cycle through all five streaming services in that span if you time it right. You could also just pay $20 for one month of Sling Orange + Blue and save yourself the hassle of creating and deactivating accounts every week. Fortunately, these services are now compatible with almost every streaming device, gaming console, and smart TV around.
Use a TV antenna
If you only care about catching the NBA Finals, and not the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, you can get by with a TV antenna. They can be a little tricky to set up, but once you find one that works for your home, you’ll get all your local channels in HD for free, including ABC. We put together this guide to finding the right TV antenna that walks you through each step in more detail.
Locast.org streams local channels in some markets
Another option for streaming the Finals is Locast.org, a not-for-profit service that streams ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC for free. It’s currently only available in nine U.S. cities, but four of the eight remaining teams call those cities home: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
For Canadian fans, TSN will carry the Finals
To watch the NBA Finals in Canada, you’ll need to go through TSN (The Sports Network). TSN Direct is available to anyone in Canada, with no cable subscription required. It costs $4.99 per day, so you can pay only for the days you want to watch games, or $19.99 per month. Its device compatibility is still pretty limited: Apple TV, Xbox One, and Samsung Smart TVs will work, but not Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, or Android TVs. On the plus side, TSN broadcasts the NBA playoffs in 4K, so if you have a new 4K TV, you’ll be able to make the most of it.