Why Knicks and Lakers Making In-Season Tournament Knockout Stage Isn’t Entirely Positive
The New York Knicks have secured a spot in the In-Season Tournament’s knockout round as the Eastern Conference’s wild card, sparking widespread joy. This tournament has injected much-needed excitement into the NBA’s typically slow phase, often overshadowed by the NFL’s dominance in conversations.
- However, this achievement brings some drawbacks for the Knicks.
While the IST games contribute to the regular-season record, the Knicks, set to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the quarterfinals, will play their fifth game against this formidable opponent. Conversely, teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat, not advancing in the IST, receive extra games against weaker opponents due to scheduling gaps left by the tournament-bound teams.
In essence, the Knicks’ “reward” for progressing is an additional game against a top-tier rival, impacting their playoff seeding.
The situation could worsen if the Knicks advance and face the Boston Celtics in the semis, adding a fifth game against them to their schedule. Playing ten games against top rivals like the Celtics and Bucks could be a strenuous challenge.
For the Knicks, the potential downside becomes more evident if they don’t win the Cup. Despite the possible monetary reward ($500K per player), it could be a bitter experience as teams strive for favorable playoff positions, where even one or two games can significantly impact seeding.
Consider the scenario where the Knicks fall below the play-in line due to an extra loss against the Bucks, while Miami gains an advantage with an extra win against the Raptors.
A parallel situation looms for the Lakers, who also qualify for the IST knockout stage. Their match against the Suns in the quarterfinals could lead to a fifth game against Phoenix, potentially followed by another five against the Kings in the semis.
Conversely, teams like the Timberwolves, not advancing past the IST group stage, benefit from extra games against weaker opponents like the Spurs and Grizzlies.
In the long run, this scheduling discrepancy could influence the teams’ standings in April. The Lakers might find themselves closer in standings to the Timberwolves, yet facing more challenging opponents. This contrast raises questions about the supposed rewards for tournament-qualifying teams. This critique doesn’t aim to undermine the IST’s structure but rather highlights potential scheduling inequities. While the tournament brings positivity to the league, addressing these legitimate concerns might be a priority for future iterations.