With the games yesterday, the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament has officially tipped off. The Atlanta Hawks won’t make their debut in the tournament until Tuesday, November 14 in a game at the Detroit Pistons, but they will have a stretch of three games in four being part of group play in mid-November.
So what exactly is group play? And when does the knockout tournament bracket come in view? Here is an Atlanta Hawks-centric explainer of the newest phenomenon this season.
What is all of this?
To start, all 30 NBA teams were put into pots based upon their record in the 2022-23 season and randomly placed into groups of five from those pots. The Hawks have been placed into East Group A alongside the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The schedule of the initial set of games:
- Away — Pistons — Tuesday, November 14
- Home — Sixers — Friday, November 17
- Home — Pacers — Tuesday, November 21
- Away — Cavaliers — Tuesday, November 28
These games coincide with normal NBA games that will contribute to the Hawks’ 82-game record. The most noticeable difference for these games will instead be the different hardwood courts on display in the arenas. State Farm Arena will sport a regal-looking court adorned with hardware and a new slogan.
The color scheme of the court will match the 2023-24 Nike NBA Fly City Edition Uniforms that debuted earlier this week shown at the top.
The top eight teams across the six groups will then advance to a single-elimination bracket, including all six group winners (by group record) plus two wild cards teams, once applying tiebreakers if necessary. If the Hawks fail to qualify for the knockout tournament portion, they will play two games against other non-qualifying teams, one on the road and one at home simultaneously during the tournament for regular season purposes.
The quarterfinals will then be held in on December 4 and 5 in normal NBA home arenas. So for example, with good performance in group stage of this format, the Hawks could host a team in State Farm Arena to advance to the semifinals in the In-Season Tournament.
Then, the semifinals on December 7 and the final on December 9 will be held in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. All knockout games also count towards the regular season standings excepting the championship game. Quarterfinals losers will play one extra game to reach 82 games in their record like the rest of the league.
Why do all of this?
Well, for starters there are financial incentives at stake for the players and coaches. Plus, any opportunity for the Hawks to lift the NBA Cup — which would be their first trophy raise since 1958 — has to mean something.