Group Play in the NBA In-Season Tournament has come and gone. The NBA's newest event had a lot of fans hesitant to get on board, but with the first round in the mirror, approval of the tournament seems to have increased. Action is clearly amped up during In-Season Tournament games, and it will only intensify more during the Knockout Rounds. So, which teams advanced not the Knockouts Rounds, and what can you come to expect from the tournament going forward? All of that will be explained in this article, so let's dive in.
Knockout Rounds seeding
Eight teams advanced from Group Play and to the Knockout Rounds; the winner from each group and one wildcard team from each conference. With eight teams advancing, 22 teams were eliminated. Every team that advanced had at least three In-Season Tournament wins, but there were a few teams that won three games that didn't advance. The Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, and Minnesota Timberwolves were all eliminated despite having three wins because their points scored and point differential weren't good enough.
The 22 eliminated teams will go back to playing their regularly scheduled regular season games. The eight teams that moved on will first play in quarterfinal games. The winner of those games will go to Las Vegas to play their single-elimination semifinal games, with the In-Season Tournament Final following that. The winners of the In-Season Tournament will win the NBA Cup and $500,000 for each player on the team.
1 seed: Milwaukee Bucks (Group B winner)
2 seed: Indiana Pacers (Group A winner)
3 seed: Boston Celtics (Group C winner)
4 seed: New York Knicks (wildcard)
1 seed: Los Angeles Lakers (Group A winner)
2 seed: Sacramento Kings (Group C winner)
3 seed: New Orleans Pelicans (Group B winner)
4 seed: Phoenix Suns (wildcard)
In-Season Tournament Knockout Rounds schedule
Each game in the Knockout Rounds is a one-and-done format. All quarterfinal games will be on TNT on December 4th and 5th.
Monday, Dec. 4:
Boston Celtics @ Indiana Pacers, 7:30 p.m. ET – TNT
New Orleans Pelicans @ Sacramento Kings, 10 p.m. ET – TNT
Tuesday, Dec. 5:
New York Knicks @ Milwaukee Bucks, 7:30 p.m. ET – TNT
Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers, 10 p.m. ET – TNT
Semifinal games: Thursday, Dec. 7 – TBD
Championship game: Saturday, Dec. 9 – TBD
In-Season Tournament Group Play standings
Eastern Conference Group A
Indiana Pacers: 4-0
Cleveland Cavaliers: 3-2
Philadelphia 76ers: 2-2
Atlanta Hawks: 1-3
Detroit Pistons: 0-4
Eastern Conference Group B
Milwaukee Bucks: 4-0
New York Knicks: 3-1
Miami Heat: 2-2
Charlotte Hornets: 1-3
Washington Wizards: 0-4
Eastern Conference Group C
Boston Celtics: 3-1
Orlando Magic: 3-1
Brooklyn Nets: 3-1
Toronto Raptors: 1-3
Chicago Bulls: 0-4
Western Conference Group A
Los Angeles Lakers: 4-0
Phoenix Suns: 3-1
Utah Jazz: 2-2
Portland Trail Blazers: 1-3
Memphis Grizzlies: 0-4
Western Conference Group B
New Orleans Pelicans: 3-1
Houston Rockets: 2-2
Dallas Mavericks: 2-2
Denver Nuggets: 2-2
Los Angeles Clippers: 1-3
Western Conference Group C
Sacramento Kings: 4-0
Minnesota Timberwolves: 3-1
Golden State Warriors: 2-2
Oklahoma City Thunder: 1-3
San Antonio Spurs: 0-4
Dec. 4 Quarterfinal games
The first game of the Knockout Rounds will be between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers. The Celtics, with their star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, have been one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference for years, so seeing them in the Knockout Rounds is no surprise. The Celtics do have a very new look to their squad, though, and the offseason additions of Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis have paid off. Not only did the Celtics win their group during Group Play, but the team has the best overall record in the NBA.
That will be put to the test against the Pacers, though. Indiana has the most efficient offense in the league, and no one scores more than their 127.6 points per game. Tyrese Haliburton is a machine who can create both for himself and for others. Something has to give in this game, but it is hard to predict what will.
Also on December 4th is a game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. The two teams may be the biggest surprises to have won their groups. The Kings played in a group with the Golden State Warriors, and the Pelicans played in a group with the Denver Nuggets. Yet these teams advanced and will now face off in the quarterfinals.
New Orleans has been hot as of late, and reinforcements are on the way. C.J. McCollum is set to return from a collapsed lung, and he will bring some much-needed shooting to the their lineup. The Pelicans have thrived with a Dyson Daniels and Herb Jones backcourt, though, so it'll be interesting to see how Willie Green adjusts his rotation. While the Kings advancing to the Knockout Rounds may surprise some, it really shouldn't. On the backs of De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, the Kings earned the three seed last year in the Western Conference postseason bracket, so they have proven they can win in the regular season.
Dec. 5 Quarterfinal games
The quarterfinal games on December 5th will feature matchups that we have already seen in the In-Season Tournament. The Eastern Conference Group B winners, the Milwaukee Bucks, will play the New York Knicks again, with the Bucks having won their initial In-Season Tournament meeting by a score of 110-105. The Bucks couldn't miss from three-point land in that game, as they shot 20-39 from deep. This included a perfect 3-3 night from Giannis Antetokounmpo and a 4-7 display from Damian Lillard. The Bucks won't shoot like that every night, and the last matchup was a close finish despite the Bucks being unconscious from deep. Jalen Brunson also had a career night during that game, as the Knicks' point guard had 45 points on the evening.
The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers will face off for the second time in the In-Season Tournament as well. The Lakers won their first matchup in thrilling fashion by a score of 122-119. The Suns haven't played with their new big three all season, but that game was one of the few that Bradley Beal suited up for, with Devin Booker being inactive. This time around, Booker will almost certainly be playing, but Beal will likely be out. Regardless, Kevin Durant has been on a tear all season, as he had 38 points in the game against the Lakers. It wasn't enough to overcome LeBron James' 32 points and Anthony Davis' 18 points, though. The Lakers have been great when their two stars have been on the court together, and they are hoping that will lead them past the Suns in this big game.