The NBA’s In-Season tournament is quickly approaching. The first slate of group play games starts this Friday. While the Celtics group play games start next Friday when they face off against the Nets. Let’s analyze how this tournament works and how the Celtics stack up in their group.
In-season Tournament Preview: How The Celtics Stack Up In Group Play
The Basics of the In-Season Tournament
The In-Season Tournament may seem complex at first. However, when unpacking it, the tournament is somewhat straightforward. There are two stages of the tournament group play and a knockout round. The league will be split into 6 groups of 5 teams (3 groups per conference.) Each team will play the other teams in their group once during the group play stage of the tournament. Group play games take place every Tuesday and Friday from November 4th to November 28th. After that, the best team from each group along with 2 wild cards (the 2 best remaining teams), will advance to the knockout rounds. The knockout rounds will take place in Las Vegas, ultimately concluding with a championship game on December 9th.
The Celtics’ group play games begin Friday when they face off against the Nets. Brooklyn has a fun, defensive-minded team built around high-quality players with no true superstar. Mikal Bridges is the Nets number one option and a high-level two-way player with All-Star potential. The Nets have a plethora of good role players and defenders throughout the roster. This pesky team is a challenging regular-season matchup. Despite not having nearly the talent of the Celtics or even an average playoff team the Nets play hard every night. This has potential to be a closer game as a result. However, Boston’s overall excellence, plethora of scoring options, and incredible talent will likely be too much for Brooklyn to overcome.
Similar to the Bulls, the Raptors lack direction and are stuck in the middle. Toronto is 2-3 on the season and projects to be fighting for a playoff spot this year. Scottie Barnes is having a breakout year and looks to be a franchise star while Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are still productive players. It’s unclear if the Raptors want to invest more in this core that has a clear ceiling or hit the reset button. Matchup wise, the Celtics offensive fire-power and front court size with Kristaps Porzingis could overwhelm the Raptors. Ultimately, this is another matchup where the Celtics are heavy favorites but still need to take care of business.
The Magic are a fun and frisky young team. The duo of Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero gives Orlando two franchise building blocks. This star duo is surrounded by lengthy defenders and high-IQ players. Through elite defense, the Magic found a clear identity this year. Orlando has the 2nd best defense at this point in the season. I anticipate the Magic to be one of the more competitive teams in the group. Last year the Celtics lost all three games against the Magic. As a result, it’s important for the Celtics to be fully prepared against the Magic. Orlando’s defense will keep them in this game and could possibly contain the Celtics incredible shooting. However, Boston’s experience, incredible talent, and perimeter play compared to Orlando’s lack of offensive firepower gives the Celtics a clear advantage. Furthermore, the elite wing duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is a particular advantage for the Celtics against such a young team.
The Bulls season is off to a rocky start, as they currently hold a 2-3 record. After a blowout opening night loss, the Bulls held a players-only meeting, a concerning sign this early in the season. The Bulls lack identity or direction and project to be an extremely average team this season. The Bulls have talent such as Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan but remain below average on both ends of the floor. With a clear talent advantage, the Celtics should have no problems with the Bulls. However, Chicago generally plays the Celtics well, including two upset wins last season. As a result, the Bulls can’t be taken lightly when the Celtics face off against them on November 28th.
The Last Word On the Celtics
Ultimately, the Celtics’ group puts them in a perfect position. The Celtics are clear favorites in group C. Fanduel lists the Celtics as -150 favorites, the highest odds of any team to win a group. The Celtics’ group consists of 4 teams that are very similar from a standings perspective. All of these teams are pretty average rosters that are hovering around the playoffs. There is no team clearly better or worse than the other. Similarly, there’s no team that is clearly Boston’s biggest threat. One of these teams could steal a game from the Celtics. However, the Celtics winning this group seems like an inevitability and anything else would be shocking.