May 29, 2024

The games have been played, the points have been tallied and 22 of the 30 colorful courts have been retired, at least for this year. The knockout stages are set for the NBA’s in-season tournament with the Lakers hosting the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday at Arena.

Here’s how we got here:

What’s the NBA’s in-season tournament?

In an attempt to get more attention during the pre-Christmas schedule, the league cooked up its first in-season tournament, modeled in part after European soccer competition.

In each conference, teams were placed into three pools with five teams. Each team played four games in pool play, the team with the best record advancing to the single-elimination stage. A fourth team, the wild card, was decided by record and tiebreakers, most notably point differential in tournament games.

The winners of the quarterfinals advance to Las Vegas for the semifinals on Dec. 7 and the final on Dec. 9.

Why would the players agree to this?

Players on the winning team each get $500,000. And even if you make millions, $500,000 is enough to drum up interest.

Didn’t the Lakers already beat the Suns?

They did!

The teams played in the same group, with the Lakers opening their schedule in Phoenix on Nov. 10 with a 122-119 win.

The Lakers won all four of their pool games, with Phoenix going 3-1 and advancing ahead of 3-1 Minnesota. The Suns were plus-34 in their tournament games, easily securing the wild-card spot.

Now the Lakers and Suns will play again in Los Angeles.

Who else is in?

Indiana hosts Boston and Milwaukee hosts New York in the East. And in addition to Lakers-Suns, Sacramento will host New Orleans.

Has it worked?

Player engagement has been high, fans have been watching and coaches have appreciated the intensity making the inaugural tournament a successful experiment so far. It’s more than a safe bet that it’ll be back next year.

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