I know, I know. Most of you can’t stand the In-Season tournament. But it’s happening and the Celtics just might win it, so you might as well stay up to date.
The Nets are second in the group with a record of 2-1. Then it’s the Orlando Magic (1-1) in third, followed by the Raptors (0-1) and Chicago Bulls (0-2).
Boston has two more In-Season games left against the Bulls and Magic on Nov. 24 and Nov. 28. It goes without saying that if the Celtics win both, they will advance as the only undefeated team in the group.
They can still lead the group if they end up with a 3-1 record. If two teams are tied at the top, whoever won the head-to-head matchup will win the division. But if the Celtics don’t win the division, they can still secure a wildcard berth in the knockout round. That’s where their differential could come into play: They have the second-best differential in the East, behind the Bucks.
If they lose to the Bulls and Magic, their chances at heading to Vegas are pretty much shot, unless every group C team finishes a perfect 2-2. None of that is going to happen.
Seven teams share the “undefeated” label with the Celtics: the Pacers, Bucks, Heat, Lakers, Kings, and Timberwolves. The only team with more wins than Boston is Los Angeles, which is 3-0. LA is emerging as one of the early In-Season Tournament favorites, as they have already beaten the Phoenix Suns – the only team capable of challenging them for a path out of the group stage.
Other teams making waves in the tournament are the Kings and Pacers. Both are breakout teams that are competing harder than most other squads in this first-ever in-season showdown. The Pacers, who took down the Cavaliers and the 76ers to start the tournament, have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. The Kings have yet to face the Warriors or the Timberwolves, but they’ve shown they are taking the tournament seriously, trying to score baskets at the end of fourth quarters to increase their differential.
The Celtics might have to display a similar attitude to win the NBA Cup. Some teams are getting into it (like the Kings and the 76ers, who also have tried to run up the score at the end of games). As of right now, Boston isn’t on that level. The general feeling among the team might best be summed up by Kristaps Porzingis, who said he doesn’t view the tournament tilts any differently than regular season games.
“For us, it’s important to win every game,” he said last week.
We’ll have to wait and see whether the Celtics remain too cool for the tournament after a few games. You can pretend you are, too, but admit it (if only to yourself), you’re a little excited.