The NBA In-Season Tournament is doing what it intended. Now things should heat up more

By TIM REYNOLDS – AP Basketball Writer

There was no shortage of reasons for this NBA In-Season Tournament Game invited together. And the benefits are already clear: the ratings are up, people are talking about games before Christmas and some players say that there is extra energy in those tournaments.

That means it’s working. And since there are round-off spots starting this week, it’s reasonable to assume that interest will only continue to grow.

“I was interested to see how it would happen, how it would work,” Sacramento guard De’Aaron Fox said last week after his team moved to 2-0 in tour play. “I’m not one of those guys who’s like, ‘I think he’s dumb,’ because I don’t think so. I think it could be interesting for this series.”

Going into Tuesday, 37 of the 60 games had been played in the group stage of the inaugural tournament. (Five more will be played on Tuesday.) The ratings are up; games shown on ESPN have received 55% more viewers than those in comparable windows last year. It’s still not absolutely necessary to watch on TV – the nationally televised tournament games draw about 1.7 million viewers – but better numbers are better, and that’s the point.

People are also reading…

Tell people that a game means more, and they will be more inclined to watch. Some of Friday’s 10 games will certainly have implications for who advances to the quarter-finals, with the same rings true for the eight group-stage finals to be played on November 28.

“Some of the courts are looking a little funky,” Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James said as the tournament wore on and players were getting used to it all – including the different paint schemes on the tour match floors, which drew criticism from. players like Boston’s Jaylen Brown and others over safety concerns. Slipping was a factor in some games.

“But I think it’s great, in terms of spicing things up for the league,” James said. So that’s great.”

A reminder of how this works – six group winners make the quarter-finals and two wild card teams also reach that round. Those are the two best runners-up, which likely means teams with 3-1 records and strong point differentials.

The quarter finals are on December 4th and December 5th. The semi-finals of the Final Four are in Las Vegas on December 7 and the final is December 9 – with $500,000 per player at stake, as well as the NBA Cup.

Here’s a look at each group up to this point:


Standings: Indiana 2-0, Philadelphia 2-1, Cleveland 1-1, Atlanta 1-1, Detroit 0-3.

Tuesday’s games: Indiana at Atlanta, Cleveland at Philadelphia.

Friday’s game: Detroit at Indiana.

November 28 game: Atlanta at Cleveland.

Outlook: The Pacers lead here, with the head-to-head tiebreaker over Philadelphia. The Philly-Cleveland game might as well be an elimination game. Atlanta is definitely a must win. Detroit ends.


Standings: Milwaukee 2-0, Miami 2-0, New York 1-1, Charlotte 1-2, Washington 0-3.

Friday’s games: Miami at New York, Washington at Milwaukee.

November 28 games: Charlotte at New York, Milwaukee in Miami.

Outlook: It would be something if playoff rivals Miami and Milwaukee ended up meeting for first place in the group. New York will likely need two wins to have a chance. Charlotte needs the win and a lot of help. Washington can’t go on.


Standings: Boston 2-0, Brooklyn 2-1, Orlando 1-1, Toronto 0-1, Chicago 0-2.

Tuesday’s game: Toronto at Orlando.

Friday’s games: Boston at Orlando, Chicago at Toronto.

November 28 games: Chicago at Boston, Toronto at Brooklyn.

Outlook: Boston moves on with two wins; one may be enough, too. A 3-1 finish for Orlando could send the Magic through, since that would include a win over the Celtics. Brooklyn vs. Toronto could be an elimination game, and Chicago needs two wins to have any shot.


Standings: Los Angeles Lakers 3-0, Utah 2-1, Phoenix 1-1, Portland 1-2, Memphis 0-3.

Tuesday’s games: Utah at LA Lakers, Portland at Phoenix.

Friday’s game: Phoenix at Memphis.

Outlook: Lakers-Jazz could decide the group; LA wins in the quarter final. A Utah win creates a real chance for three teams to finish 3-1; the Lakers and Jazz would both have that record and Phoenix can still get there, and at least one of those teams wouldn’t be moving on in that situation. Portland is still alive only mathematically, and Memphis is out.


Standings: New Orleans 2-1, Denver 2-1, Houston 1-1, Dallas 1-2, Los Angeles Clippers 1-2.

Friday’s games: Denver at Houston, New Orleans at LA Clippers.

Game November 28: Houston at Dallas.

Outlook: New Orleans has the edge over Denver to lead the group, but if you like chaos, this is the group for you. If all of this happens – the Clippers beat the Pelicans, the Rockets beat the Nuggets and the Mavs beat the Rockets – everyone ends up 2-2. Cookies! Point differentials! A .500 team makes the playoffs!


Standings: Sacramento 2-0, Minnesota 2-0, Golden State 1-1, Oklahoma City 1-2, San Antonio 0-3.

Friday’s games: Sacramento at Minnesota, San Antonio at Golden State.

November 28 games: Golden State at Sacramento, Oklahoma City in Minnesota.

Outlook: Minnesota wins the group if it beats Sacramento; the Kings would then lead with a win. Golden State needs two wins to help take the group. Oklahoma City will need a win to keep their slim quarterback hopes alive, and Victor Wembanyama will not play in Vegas next month with the Spurs already eliminated.

Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(ag)


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