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Spartan Scoop

NBA HOSTS INAUGURAL IN-SEASON TOURNAMENT

NBA attempts to boost viewership with regular season competition
Kevin Durant hopes to lead his team to an in-season championship
Wikimedia Commons
Kevin Durant hopes to lead his team to an in-season championship

The NBA announced on August 15, 2023, that it would host its inaugural mid-season tournament for all teams to compete in. The 30 teams in the NBA were placed into groups of 5 teams based on how they performed last year. The regular season games where the teams play opponents in their divisions will count towards the tournament record. Other games against teams outside their divisions will not matter for the tournament.

This is the first time that the NBA has done something like this, but the concept is not so new to the WNBA. They had their first in-season tournament in 2020, but due to COVID, they didn’t have a full one until 2021. The “Commissioner’s Cup”, as they called it, was successful in the WNBA, and drove viewership in the first two years of the tournament’s existence.

The NBA is hoping to do the same, but they still have to compete with the NFL for viewers in this early part of the season. According to NBC Sports, the Christmas viewership for the NBA was 5 times less than the viewership of the NFL on that day in 2022 (NBC). This is the case for many Sundays, Thursdays, and Mondays throughout the winter though, and the NBA is trying to do something about it. The semifinals and finals for the in-season tournament will be on December 7th and 9th for the NBA. 

So who is leading this tournament so far? The games in this tournament count not only towards the tournament record but also towards the team’s regular record, so in this way, the tournament is not treated like playoffs. This means that a good tournament record most likely reflects performance in the regular season. 

Right now, the Lakers have done the best in their games that count for the tournament. The Lakers have clinched their division with an undefeated tournament record, and they have beaten every team in their division. They also have the highest point differential in their favor,

(The Lakers are)…scoring 74 points more than their opponents have on them.

The Lakers are not the only undefeated team in the tournament, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Sacramento Kings, are both 4-0. The Kings and Bucks both won their divisions as well, and they remain undefeated in the tournament.

The Kings beat the Warriors to go undefeated and clinch their division. The Warriors are 8-10 and the Kings are 10-6. If the Kings were to lose to the Warriors though, the Warriors would have a half-game lead over the Kings, and they would win the division. If teams have the same record, the first tiebreaker is the head-to-head matchup record. If the Warriors beat the Kings, they would win the division by only half of a game. The Kings managed to fend off the 2022 NBA champions though, and they advanced to the #2 seed in the tournament. 

In West Group B, The Pelicans and Rockets were the two teams leading the division. The Rockets were half a game behind, and they had a chance to take the lead of their division, but they ended up losing to the Pelicans in the final game of the playoff qualifiers. They beat the Pelicans in game 1 of the tournament but were unable to win their last game to secure the win of the division. 

From the Western Conference, the Lakers, Kings, and Pelicans won the divisions, and the Suns managed to take the wild-card spot. In the East, the Bucks, Pacers, and Celtics are represented as the 1, 2, and 3 seeds in the tournament. The Knicks took the wild-card spot for the East. The matchups for the quarterfinals will be Lakers vs Suns, Kings vs Pelicans, Bucks vs Knicks, and Pacers vs. Celtics. 

These matchups are in knockout-round style, so one loss means your team is out of the tournament. The Lakers have already beaten the Suns twice this year, so things are looking up for them. The rest of the teams are just a “wait and see” for how they’ll do, but the Celtics are looking like the best team in the NBA right now, so it would be safe to guess that they’ll do well.

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