Timberwolves NBA In-Season Tournament Tips Off vs Spurs

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Minnesota Timberwolves
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The NBA created an in-season tournament that is debuting this year. The format will look rather familiar to soccer fans, but might cause confusion among most American sports fans. On the line: A new trophy called the NBA Cup and an extra paycheck for the players from the team that wins.

Timberwolves NBA In-Season Tournament tips off

The 2023 tourney started on November 3 and a champion will be crowned on December 9, but the Minnesota Timberwolves play their first in-season tournament game tonight, vs the San Antonio Spurs.

Related: Timberwolves are Bill Simmons’ Sleeper; Top-5 in His NBA Power Rankings

Here’s how the NBA in-season tournament works, plus anything else you need to know before tonight’s group play matchup.

Group Play

The Western and Eastern conferences were each split into three groups (of 5 teams). Through November 28, teams will do battle round robin style within their 5-team groups. Every team will play four games (two and home and two on the road). The Minnesota Timberwolves are in Group C of the Western Conference.

West: Group C

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves
  2. Sacramento Kings
  3. Golden State Warriors
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder
  5. San Antonio Spurs

The team with the best round-robin record in each group, will automatically advance to the Knockout Stage, along with one wild card team (best group play record that didn’t win their group) from each conference.

Knockout Stage

That means the knockout stage of the in-season tournament will have 8 total teams (4 from each conference). This portion of the tournament is bracket-play single-elimination.

Related: Timberwolves Fans Flock Back to Target Center in Droves

The first round is played at the higher seed’s home court (on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5). The semi-finals and finals will be played at a neutral site on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9.

Other details:

  • Each team has a special court design for NBA Cup games
  • NBA in-tournament games count toward the overall season record of the teams that play in them.
  • Those who move on will have the knockout stage games count toward their regular season records.
  • Those who are knocked out in group play, will continue their regular season schedule**

**During the Knockout Rounds on days when In-Season Tournament games are not scheduled (Wednesday, Dec. 6 and Friday, Dec. 8), the 22 teams that do not qualify for the Knockout Rounds will each play two regular-season games.

A formulaic approach will determine the matchups for these games using the Group Play standings in each conference (5th-15th).  Two of the 22 games will be scheduled cross-conference since there will be an odd number of teams in each conference that do not advance to the Quarterfinals.  These cross-conference games will be scheduled between bottom-finishing teams in the Group Play stage subject to travel constraints, and no team will play more than one of its two games cross-conference.  The other 20 games will be scheduled within conference featuring teams that are otherwise scheduled to play each other three times over the course of the season wherever possible.

The four teams that lose in the Quarterfinals will each play a regular-season game on Friday, Dec. 8, against the opponent in their same conference.

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