By Rico Brill
The NBA’s 2023-2024 season ushered in a wave of excitement with new stories and a groundbreaking rule change—the introduction of the In-Season Tournament. Fast forward to early December, and the tournament has reached a pivotal moment: the knockout stage. Four regular-season games, typically forgettable, now hold a new and unknown weight. With a substantial prize pool of $18 million and each team’s pride at stake, the quarterfinal matchups promise intense showdowns that could reshape the narrative of this NBA season.
On Monday, the Boston Celtics are set to play the Indianapolis Pacers, while the New Orleans Pelicans face off against the Sacramento Kings. Tuesday’s games feature the New York Knicks against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns against the Los Angeles Lakers. The winners advance to the semifinals one step closer to winning, whereas the defeated teams are relegated to regular-season games later in the week against other quarterfinal losers.
The Indiana Pacers have their hands full as they have to face the team with the best record at 15-4, the Boston Celtics. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle emphasizes the need for an intense home atmosphere and support in this challenging encounter: “I just want to make every appeal I can to our fans that we need the loudest building possible.” Meanwhile, the New York Knicks prepare for the Milwaukee Bucks, setting the stage for a clash between defensive prowess and three-point sharpshooting.
New Orleans Pelicans, led by stars Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, face the Sacramento Kings, a team that has shown resilience with remarkable comebacks in the tournament. The final quarterfinal game sees the Phoenix Suns challenging the Los Angeles Lakers. This matchup holds personal significance being in Las Vegas for LeBron James, has mentioned owning a team in Las Vegas when the NBA expands.
As the tournament unfolds, it transcends the conventional regular-season dynamic, adding a layer of intensity and competition rarely seen in early December. The teams are not just playing for victories but also for a chance to etch their names in NBA history as the inaugural champions of the In-Season Tournament. It remains to be seen how much a victory would mean to the players, but the monetary prize for the teams is substantial. The basketball world eagerly awaits the outcome, and the players are prepared for a journey that could define their season and careers.