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In-Season Tournament review: Knockout stages nearing

Just eight group stage games remain in the inaugural In-Season Tournament after another loaded slate of action on Friday.

The new competition was devised to bring more stakes to the regular season and this coming Tuesday should be the acid test for that.

After 15 games spread across Tuesday and Friday last week, the tournament’s first round wraps up on November 28th, before knockout games begin in December. 

Just two of the eight places in the knockout round have been claimed, leaving plenty on the line come Tuesday night. 

Ahead of some big group deciders and top-of-the-table showdowns, let’s look at this week’s action and the current tournament standings. Click here for all you need to know about the In-Season Tournament and its format. 

Heat fall short at the Garden

The New York Knicks rallied from 21 points down to produce a 100-98 win over the Miami Heat on Friday night. The Heat looked good for the victory through three quarters, but an 11-point fourth quarter brought their first In-Season Tournament defeat.

With the Milwaukee Bucks, who are +400 win the NBA Championship, laboring to a 131-128 win over the Washington Wizards, that’s left three sides in the mix to top East Group B. 

Tuesday sees Milwaukee head to the Heat in a repeat of their First Round series last term, with the Heat needing a 15-point victory to top the 3-0 Bucks’ point differential, in the likely event of a three-way tie. 

The Knicks also remain in the Mix and their home clash with the Charlotte Hornets should see them improve to 3-1 in the group. With one second-placed side from each conference making the next round, the Knicks should be confident heading into the final round of In-Season Tournament clashes. 

Kings and Warriors battle for top spot

Group C in the West also serves up a Playoff rematch on Tuesday, with the Golden State Warriors returning to the Sacramento Kings. The Warriors edged a thrilling seven-game series in the Spring, but they’re trailing in the group standings.

The Warriors, at +1200 to win the NBA Championship, produced a 118-112 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, which improved them to 2-1 overall. They still trail the Kings, who remain unbeaten in the tournament after a 124-111 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Kings have an impressive +29 point differential too, putting them in a good spot for the next round.

The Timberwolves could still benefit from a Warriors victory. However, at that point, we’d truly need our calculators out, as Minnesota would need a healthy Warriors win, while still beating the Oklahoma City Thunder by nine points more than Golden State’s margin of victory.

With teams needing various big wins to see them through, it could be a big night for spread betting if the players really get into it. 

Celtics downed by Magic curse

The Orlando Magic finished up their tournament schedule with two home wins this week, leaving them with one foot in the next round. They saw off the Raptors 126-107 on Tuesday, before toppling the Boston Celtics with a 113-96 victory.

The Magic top Group C in the East with a 3-1 record and a +22 point differential, but it’s hard to say if that’s a shock. Orlando have now won four straight meetings with the Celtics, while they improved to 11-5 for the season this week, putting them second in the East.

The Magic look like real contenders for this tournament. They have a fantastic defensive record, tremendous height throughout the team and a range of scoring options.

The Magic have guaranteed a head-to-head advantage over the Celtics, but their loss to the 2-1 Brooklyn Nets leaves them vulnerable as they watch on this Tuesday. 

Boston are +350 favourites to win the NBA Championship.

Nuggets out as Pelicans lead

The Denver Nuggets’ struggles continued on Friday with a 105-86 loss to the Houston Rockets, which has eliminated the NBA champions from the In-Season Tournament.

That’s lifted the Rockets to 2-1 in Group B, behind the 3-1 Pelicans who dispatched the LA Clippers on Friday. The Pels have guaranteed a top-two finish with a +33 point differential, but a loss to the Rockets earlier this month means Ime Udoka’s side can top the group by beating the eliminated Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

Lakers and Pacers eye Vegas

In both the East and West, Group A has already been wrapped up. The LA Lakers won 131-99 against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday to become the first-ever 4-0 side in the In-Season Tournament.

The Indiana Pacers followed them not long after. After a 157-152 win over the Atlanta Hawks, they blew out the Detroit Pistons on Friday to wrap up Group A in the East. Behind them, the 2-1 Cleveland Cavaliers got a huge overtime victory at Philadelphia on Tuesday, keeping them in the race for a Wild Card spot.

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