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Running Down NBA In-Season Tournament Rules

The first game of the first NBA In-Season Tournament is about to begin!

Portland Trail Blazers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

On Friday night the Portland Trail Blazers will face the Memphis Grizzlies in their first Group Game for the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament. Group play is the preliminary round, narrowing down the participants who will continue on through the later stages of the tournament.

Just in case you haven’t brushed up on the rules, here’s how it works, based on this wonderful article from

Group Play

Group play happens during designated evenings in the early months of the season. Teams in designated groups face each other, with the game counting towards regular-season record and tournament qualifying record simultaneously.

Here’s the explanation from the league:

All 30 teams have been randomly drawn into groups of five within their conference based on won-loss records from the 2022-23 regular season. Beginning Nov. 3 and continuing through Tuesday, Nov. 28, each team will play four designated Group Play games on “Tournament Nights” – one game against each opponent in its group, with two games at home and two on the road.

The Blazers are in Western Conference Group A. The Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, and Los Angeles Lakers are in the group along with them,

Knockout Round

After group play is finished, eight teams will advance to the Knockout Round of the tournament. The six teams that won their group plus a couple of wildcards will face each other in a single-elimination contest.

Eight teams will advance to the Knockout Rounds: the team with the best standing in Group Play games in each of the six groups and two “wild cards” (the team from each conference with the best record in Group Play games that finished second in its group). The Knockout Rounds will be single-elimination games in the Quarterfinals (played in NBA team markets on Monday, Dec. 4 and Tuesday, Dec. 5), Semifinals and Championship. The qualifying teams will compete for a prize pool and the new In-Season Tournament trophy, the NBA Cup.

Teams not participating in the Knockout Round will continue their regular season on those nights. Note that all NBA teams have 80, not 82, fixed games on the schedule this year, leaving two games to be determined, either as part of the Knockout Round or against other non-tournament teams.

Semi-Finals and Finals

The losers of the quarterfinals will play a single regular-season game against conference opponents on December 8th, brining their season total to 82 games.

The winners of the quarterfinals will travel to Las Vegas for the semi-final games on December 7th. The losers of those games go home without further contests, as they’ve now played quarter- and semi-final games, leaving their total at 82.

The winners of the semi-final games will face in the tournament final on December 9th to claim the inaugural NBA Cup. This will leave them at 83 games played for the year.

Portland’s journey through the tournament begins tomorrow night. Let’s see how they negotiate it against stiff group competition!