There have been many opinions about the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament. Fans of American sports leagues are typically programmed to only care about the trophy handed out at the end of the season. Even winning a division or conference during the season may not be viewed as a success if the team doesn’t ultimately win the league.
But the NBA decided to try to create excitement around a second tournament. By creating the in-season tournament, the league provided another trophy for players to go after. The league didn’t add any extra games, except the tournament final, which will be played on Dec. 9.
The In-Season Tournament featured group play and a knockout round. It created a decidedly European flavor to the season. However, it also created significant apprehension. During one game between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, some fans wondered if Golden State would intentionally force overtime to try and reach the knockout round.
The Warriors didn’t do that, to many people’s relief. There are now eight teams remaining to vie for the inaugural title. Here’s a look at the matchups and other news and notes.
Celtics Would Like to Build Momentum
Few teams were as disappointed with how last season ended as Boston was. Black sports news shows the underdog Miami Heat eliminated the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. Coming into this season, there is plenty of pressure on everyone in the Boston organization, especially second-year coach Joe Mazzulla, to win now.
Boston’s first step toward building confidence resulted in a tough fight in East Group C. The Celtics finished in a three-way tie with the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets for first place. Boston advanced with a plus-27 point differential.
The Celtics, who have the league’s best record, will take on a surprise entrant in the quarterfinals. Indiana surprised many people by winning Group A in dominant fashion. The Pacers won all four games and had a point differential of 39.
Indiana is only 9-7 this season overall. This is a dangerous matchup for the Celtics. A loss to Indiana in the tournament format could result in bad juju.
Knicks and Bucks Ready for Slugest
The New York Knicks have always been comfortable playing rugged basketball. Current head coach Tom Thibodeau fit right in when he took over as coach during the 2020-21 season. While the Knicks don’t appear to be serious challenges for the NBA Finals, New York is built to play a rough-and-tumble game.
The Knicks will face star-driven Milwaukee in the quarterfinals. While Bucks star guard Damian Lillard isn’t the most physically imposing player, forward Giannis Antetokounmpo plays with plenty of physicality.
Kings Continue to Play Fast
The Sacramento Kings ensure their opponents get pushed to the limit in every meeting. The Kings aren’t the most efficient offensive team, but their recent sports updates show Sacramento is more than capable of finding ways to get points on the board. After breaking their long playoff drought last season, the Kings got terrible news to start this season.
Sacramento ranks 10th in the league by averaging 116.1 points per game. Star guard De’Aaron Fox had an injury that forced him to be out for a few games. However, since getting Fox back, the Kings have righted the ship and will be ready to take on the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans are 10-9 overall this season and are among the NBA’s great mysteries.
New Orleans hasn’t been able to stay fully healthy since Zion Williamson came into the league. Williamson has appeared in most of the team’s games this season and averages more than 20 points per game, along with Brandon Ingram. However, nothing is ever perfect for the Pelicans.
Star guard C.J. McCollum has only appeared in six games and has struggled with injuries.
Veteran Suns and Lakers Ready for Battle
The Phoenix Suns are a team people expect to win now. Over the past year, the Suns dumped Chris Paul and decided to bring Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal on board. Phoenix is still trying to figure out the right mix to become a serious title contender.
The Suns’ quarterfinal opponents, the Los Angeles Lakers, are also a team that relies heavily on the contributions of veterans. LeBron James can still play strong basketball, but recent sports updates show he isn’t quite as sharp as he was earlier in his career. Lakers center Anthony Davis has been healthier this year, but neither team has stood out in the regular season.
If the playoffs started today, the Suns would be the No. 6 seed, while Los Angeles would be No. 7.
Don’t Bully Billy
One of the major objections to the In-Season Tournament, according to top sports news, was the idea of using point differential as a tiebreaker. When the Celtics needed to beat the Bulls by 23 points to advance to the knockout round, Boston coach Joe Mazzulla internationally fouled Chicago’s Andre Drummond to protect their margin in the fourth quarter.
Drummond only makes 56 percent of his attempts from the free throw line. Sending Drummond to the free-throw line allowed Boston to get the ball back quickly and try to score. This strategy upset Bulls coach Billy Donovan. Typically, there are “unwritten rules” of American sports that frown on teams running up the score.
While Mazzulla tried to talk to Donovan about it during the game to show he meant no disrespect, Donovan was still unhappy. Boston would end up winning 127-94 to score just enough points to win the group.
Special Courts Draw Mixed Reviews
To help NBA fans distinguish which games were part of the tournament, each team had a custom design for the court. While many basketball courts typically feature wood stained with typically brown colors, the in-season tournament featured vibrant color. Some fans and players felt the design was a distraction from the games.
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