The NBA In-Season Tournament explained: Rules, schedule, prizes

Nov 3, 2023, 6:00 AM

NBA in-season tournament logo (courtesy of the NBA)...

NBA in-season tournament logo (courtesy of the NBA)

(courtesy of the NBA)

November welcomes the debut of the NBA In-Season Tournament.

Tournament group games tip-off on Friday, Nov. 3 in the teams’ respective markets. However, the Sacramento Kings first tournament game isn’t until Friday, Oct. 10, against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Also in the Kings’ West Group C are the Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, and San Antonio Spurs.

But, just because Sacramento isn’t playing on the first night of tournament games, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get a refresher of the rules.


What is the NBA In-Season Tournament schedule?

According to a press release from the NBA, group games are scheduled for “Tournament Nights,” which are every Tuesday and Friday night throughout November. No tournament games are scheduled for Election Day on Nov. 7.

The semifinals and championship then take place on Dec. 7 and 9 in Las Vegas.

How does a team advance in the tournament?

Eight teams, four from each conference, and two wild card teams will advance from group play to the knockout rounds. The knockout rounds are single-elimination games.

Do the NBA In-Season Tournament games impact the regular season?

All tournament games except the championship count toward regular-season standings.

When the NBA released its 2023-24 regular season schedule in August, only 80 games were announced for all teams. A standard regular season schedule consists of 82 games. And this is where the tournament comes into play.

Each team’s final two regular-season games will be determined by their result from the tournament.

“Each of the 22 teams that do not advance to the Quarterfinals of the In-Season Tournament will be assigned two regular-season
games (one home game and one away game) that will be played on Wednesday, Dec. 6 and Friday, Dec. 8,” reads the NBA’s press release about the tournament. “The losing teams in the Quarterfinals in each conference will play each other in a regular-season game on Dec. 8.”

How to watch the tournament

Two of Sacramento’s four tournament games — against the Spurs and Warriors — are on national television. When the tournament reaches its knockout rounds, games will be broadcast on TNT, ESPN, and ABC.

TNT will televise all four games in the quarterfinals, with doubleheaders on both Monday, Dec. 4 and Tuesday, Dec. 5. The semifinals will split between ESPN and TNT on Thursday, Dec. 7.

ABC will then air the championship game on Saturday, Dec. 9.

What are the tournament groups?

Each conference has three groups.

Western Conference groups:

Group A

  • Phoenix Suns
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Utah Jazz
  • Portland Trailblazers

Group B

  • Denver Nuggets
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Houston Rockets

Group C

  • Sacramento Kings
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • San Antonio Spurs

Eastern Conference groups:

Group A

  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Detroit Pistons

Group B

  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • New York Knicks
  • Miami Heat
  • Washington Wizards
  • Charlotte Hornets

Group C

  • Boston Celtics
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Orlando Magic

What does the tournament winner get?

The winning team wins the NBA Cup. There will also be an In-Season Tournament MVP and all-tournament team. Players in the championship, semifinals and quarterfinals will also receive a monetary prize.

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