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Everything You Need To Know Going Into Friday’s NBA In-Season Tournament Games

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Getty Image/Merle Cooper

The NBA In-Season Tournament is rolling right along and will continue on Friday evening with an 11-game slate that will, finally, mean every team in the league will have played at least one tournament game — Toronto being the last team waiting to finally grace the bright courts of the IST. For others, the group stage is almost over, as many teams will have hit three games played by the time Friday is done.

That means we have a decent idea of who has a real shot at emerging from the group stage, either as group winner or as the wild card from each conference. We also have an idea of what teams won’t be moving on, even if Memphis is the only team that’s been officially eliminated at this point.

Here, we’ll take a group-by-group look at the In-Season Tournament standings, highlight the most important games of Friday night’s slate, and take a look at the paths remaining for each team.

East Group A

Friday, Nov. 17 Schedule:
76ers at Hawks
Pistons at Cavs

Standings (Teams Yet To Play)
Pacers: 2-0, +11 (Hawks, Pistons)
Hawks: 1-0, +6 (76ers, Pacers, Cavs)
76ers: 1-1, +2 (Hawks, Cavs)
Cavaliers: 0-1, -5 (Hawks, 76ers, Pistons)
Pistons: 0-2, -14 (Pacers, Cavs)

With the point differential in this group, Sixers-Hawks is a very big game as a healthy win from either side would put them in position to potentially win the group. Given Indiana still gets a game with Detroit, Philly will likely need to run the table to have a chance of catching them, while Atlanta is in control of its own destiny for now with the best teams in the group still on the schedule. Cleveland also could get back in the mix, but needs a big win over Detroit tonight to do so, while a loss for the Pistons would formally eliminate them.

East Group B

Friday, Nov. 17 Schedule:
Knicks vs. Wizards
Bucks vs. Hornets

Standings (Teams Yet To Play)
Heat: 2-0, +13 (Bucks, Knicks)
Bucks: 1-0, +5 (Hornets, Heat, Wizards)
Hornets: 1-1, +1 (Bucks, Knicks)
Knicks: 0-1, -5 (Hornets, Heat, Wizards)
Wizards: 0-2, -14 (Bucks, Knicks)

Bucks-Hornets is the big game of the night in this group, as a Milwaukee win would move us one step closer to a Bucks-Heat game to win the group on Nov. 28. That said, a Hornets upset would shake things up considerably, opening the door for them to make a shocking run to the knockout round and be a big help to Miami’s cause. The Knicks have to win tonight to keep their dreams alive of a knockout round appearance, while Washington would be mathematically eliminated with a loss.

East Group C

Friday, Nov. 17 Schedule:
Celtics vs. Raptors
Magic vs. Bulls

Standings (Teams Yet To Play)
Celtics: 1-0, +14 (Raptors, Bulls, Magic)
Nets: 2-1, +8 (Raptors)
Bulls: 0-1, -2 (Raptors, Celtics, Magic)
Magic: 0-1, -20 (Celtics, Bulls, Raptors)
Raptors: 0-0, 0 (Celtics, Nets, Bulls, Magic)

This might be the weirdest group in terms of how the schedule has ended up. Brooklyn has already played three games, while no other team has played more than one, which means the Nets are just waiting to see what happens around them right now at 2-1. The Raptors will finally play their first game against the Celtics, and an upset would shake things up considerably in the standings. Boston, on the other side, could take firm control of the group with a win. Orlando-Chicago feels like a knockout game, as going 0-2 would likely spell the end of the tournament for either team (especially with Boston still lurking for both). The Magic, especially, need to win big to erase their -20 point differential after getting smoked by Brooklyn.

West Group A

Friday, Nov. 17 Schedule:
Suns vs. Jazz
Lakers vs. Blazers

Standings (Teams Yet To Play)
Lakers: 2-0, +30 (Blazers, Jazz)
Jazz: 2-0, +22 (Suns, Lakers)
Blazers: 1-1, -14 (Lakers, Suns)
Suns: 0-1, -3 (Jazz, Grizzlies, Blazers)
Grizzlies: 0-3, -35 (Suns)

The Jazz beat up on the two teams expected to end up on the bottom of the group, which sets up a big game against Phoenix. If they can win that game to move to 3-0, and the Lakers can win as expected against Portland, then the Suns, Blazers, and Grizzlies would all be eliminated, with Jazz-Lakers next Tuesday being for the group. However, a Suns win would create at least a pathway for them to get in the hunt for the West’s wild card berth — but they’ll need to be impressive to bolster their point differential in the process. Portland upsetting L.A. would create a bit some chaos, as what looks like a straightforward path for the Lakers to win the group would get suddenly murkier.

West Group B

Friday, Nov. 17 Schedule:
Nuggets vs. Pelicans
Rockets vs. Clippers

Standings (Teams Yet To Play)
Nuggets: 2-0, +14 (Pelicans, Rockets)
Rockets: 1-0, +3 (Clippers, Nuggets, Mavericks)
Pelicans: 1-1, +18 (Clippers, Nuggets)
Mavericks: 1-2, -14 (Rockets)
Clippers: 0-2, -21 (Rockets, Pelicans)

A Nuggets win over the Pelicans on Friday would basically put a wrap on New Orleans’ hopes, although they do have the point differential to be the best 2-2 team in the West which is unlikely to get the wild card but isn’t impossible at this point. The Pelicans could find themselves in first if they win, as they’d jump Denver on point differential at 2-1. Houston, meanwhile, can eliminate the Clippers with a win and move themselves into position to potentially win the group. L.A. meanwhile is desperate for a win, not just to keep faint hope alive in the tournament, but just generally after losing 6 straight since the James Harden trade went down. Dallas is all-but eliminated, but could certainly play spoiler for Houston in a couple of weeks.

West Group C

Friday, Nov. 17 Schedule:
Kings vs. Spurs

Standings (Teams Yet To Play)
Timberwolves: 2-0, +10 (Kings, Thunder)
Kings: 1-0, +7 (Spurs, Wolves, Warriors)
Warriors: 1-1, -1 (Kings, Spurs)
Thunder: 1-2, +27 (Wolves)
Spurs: 0-2, -43 (Kings, Warriors)

The lone group with just one game on the schedule for Friday, and it’s expected the Kings will officially eliminate the Spurs. The Kings will want to win that game big as well to give themselves a cushion on point differential over Minnesota. OKC, thanks to a beatdown of San Antonio, is in position to have the best point differential of all the 2-2 teams and, as such, will have a slim hope of a knockout round appearance if they can beat Minnesota. The Wolves and Kings both control their destiny, with a matchup on the horizon, while the Warriors will be rooting for OKC or Sacramento to beat the Timberwolves to give them a pathway to the top of the group. At the moment, this group has the most moving parts given the way the top three all sorts out right now.