How to Watch the NBA Playoffs without cable
If you’ve already cut the cord from your cable company, you can still watch the NBA Playoffs live without much of a fuss. Over the next 10 weeks, there will be plenty of excitement and unexpected turnarounds like the one that the Golden State Warriors delivered to the Spurs.
My top choice for watching the NBA Playoffs is Hulu with Live TV. The live TV streaming service carries about 110 ABC stations across the U.S.
So there’s an excellent chance you’ll get all the channels you’ll need, including TNT, and ESPN.
The best budget option is with Sling TV if coverage for ABC is offered in your area. (See how to check below.) The Sling Orange bundle gets you 30 channels including A&E, HGTV and Comedy Central. There’s no NBA TV in the cheapest package. You can add it with the Sports Extra bundle for another $5. But as I’ll explain in a moment, NBA TV is a channel you can probably live without even if you’re the most diehard basketball fan.
Live streaming the NBA Playoffs 2018
No matter what you choose for a live TV streaming platform to watch NBA playoff games, keep this in mind.
All the high-profile games on weekends are on ABC until the NBA Finals. Once the finals kick in, ABC will air all of those games. (So that’s a real bonus if you’re getting ABC with your TV antenna.)
ESPN and TNT have most of the games through the first two rounds, which run between April 14 and May 14. After that, ESPN airs the entire Eastern Conference in May. TNT has all the Western Conference Finals during that month.
And finally, NBA TV is probably the least important among the big four networks. They only get a couple of games in the first round and that’s it. Done.
Watch NBA Playoffs and Finals with a TV antenna
If you have an antenna around your house, now is the time to plug it in and scan for channels. With ABC carrying the most important playoffs games and all of the NBA Finals, you’ll get a lot of value out of your antenna. Best of all, the picture will be in uncompressed HD quality – something your cable company can’t deliver.
I have a ClearStream FLEX for an indoor antenna. Based on my testing, an Antop 400-BV is a better choice if you need one mounted to your attic or roof. To get an idea on where broadcast towers are in your area, check out the free online tools to find broadcast towers in your area provided by AntennaWeb.org or nocable.org. You can also read The Best Indoor TV Antennas of 2018 to learn about the top antennas that I tested over the course of a year.
I realize you might be pressed for time, since you went about searching for a solution at the last minute. So let’s go over some other choices.
Sling TV: How to watch NBA Playoffs 2018 live stream
Sling TV should be the first option to investigate because it cost the least. You can get ABC through your Sling TV subscription only in select markets. So it’s best to use Sling TV’s handy online search tool to check if ABC is offered in your area. If it isn’t, you may still want to use a TV antenna for ABC, and sign up for Sling TV so you’re covered for games on TNT and ESPN.
If NBA TV is a must, then for another $5 per month, you can get the Sports Extra bundle which includes NBA TV, and a dozen more channels like Outside TV and NHL Network. Even if you add NBA TV or choose 50 hours of Cloud DVR service for another $5 per month, you’re still on the cheapest bundle at $30 per month.
Sling TV will work on Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku and other major streaming devices. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial, and simply cancel online if Sling TV doesn’t seem like the right fit.
Don’t have a streaming device yet?
Want to learn more about how Sling TV stacks up against live streaming competitors? Read my comparison for Sling TV vs PlayStation Vue.
DirecTV Now: NBA Playoffs Live Stream without cable
If Sling TV doesn’t do it for you, then I’d recommend using DirecTV Now for watching the playoffs. You’ll get the most important channels you’ll need, including ABC, TNT and ESPN all within the least expensive channel bundle called “Live a Little” for $35 per month. You’ll also get entertainment channels like A&E, History, Viceland and National Geographic channel.
The nice thing about DirecTV Now is that you can also stream the game on your iPhone or tablet on the go. And you can use your subscription to sign into pay-TV apps for ABC and WatchESPN.
So you don’t need to be home to watch the game. DirecTV Now has apps for Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV and Android TV devices. And you can bump into the slightly higher priced channel bundle for NBA TV if you really want it. But frankly, I’d just stuck with the “Live a Little” bundle.
If you use DirecTV Now to live stream NBA Playoffs
You can try out DirecTV Now free for 7-days. But you may want to consider a couple of promos that DirecTV Now is offering to new customers. For a brief subscription of two to three months, DirecTV Now will send you an Apple TV. Sign up and prepay for one month, and you can get a Roku Streaming Stick. After that, cancel whenever. No contracts. No long term commitments.
Watch NBA Playoffs live stream on PlayStation Vue
PlayStation Vue is another option to watch the NBA Playoffs, but it costs twice as much as Sling TV.
The Access package is $39.99 per month for 48+ channels, including ABC, ESPN and TNT. If you want NBA TV, then you’ll have to bump up to the Core package, which is $45 per month.
Watch NBA Playoffs on Hulu with Live TV
Hulu with Live TV has ABC, ESPN and TNT and costs $40 per month for roughly 50+ channels. But you’re also getting a lot more value-wise that Hulu’s competitors can’t offer. Aside from live channels like A&E, FS1, FS2, National Geographic and TNT, you’re also getting access to Hulu’s massive on-demand library of TV shows and movies. It’s the same one that people subscribe $7.99 per month for. And you’ll also get access to Hulu Originals like “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “The Path” and the adaptation of Stephen King’s “11.22.63”.
So when you’re not watching basketball, there’s a whole lot of other shows and movies up for grabs. You can try out Hulu with Live TV free for a week. If you don’t like the service, you can easily cancel online. There’s no obligation or contracts like a cable company.
It’s also worth mentioning that YouTube TV essentially has the same channel lineup as Hulu With Live TV with one key difference. YouTube TV has NBA TV, but Hulu does not. But that’s kind of a moot point at this point in the playoffs for the reason stated above.
Can I watch the NBA Playoffs on fuboTV?
Even without TNT or ESPN in its channel lineup, the answer is surprisingly … yes. But only briefly. fuboTV has NBA TV in its 70+ channel lineup. So you’d be covered for the first round of games. It’s also worth mentioning that these Round 1 games are also being carried on regional sports networks as well.
Can I live stream the NBA Playoffs on an app?
Sure, but there’s a couple caveats. To live stream on the ABC app without a cable subscription, you will need to subscribe to DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV. Sling TV doesn’t currently have app authentication for the ABC app, but it does for WatchESPN.
When the NBA Finals roll around, you can use a DirecTV Now or Sling TV account to sign in to the WatchESPN app and get a live stream.
What’s the best way to stream the NBA Playoffs and Finals?
Hulu with Live TV gives you the most value for your money and it’s the best shot for most people who are trying to get a local ABC station to watch a game. For $40 per month, you’re getting 50+ live channels, including all the channels you’ll need for the NBA Playoffs. You’ll also get Hulu’s massive on-demand library for movies and TV shows and all Hulu Originals. You can try out Hulu with Live TV free for a week.
Sling TV and DirecTV Now are two solid backup options because they carry the most important channels for the least amount of money.
Sling TV has a free 7-day trial and promo offers that can get you a free or discounted streaming device. DirecTV Now also lets you try out its service free for a week. Prepay for three months and get an Apple TV with your subscription. Pay for just one month, and you’ll get a Roku Streaming Stick with your subscription.
What’s your preferred way to watch the NBA Playoffs without cable? Tell fellow readers in the comments below.