NBA

NBA In-Season Tournament Knockout Rounds: Who Advances? Who Wins the NBA Cup?

Odds and best bets for each quarterfinal matchup, and previews for our predicted semifinals and championship matchups.

December 4, 2023

The first In-Season Tournament in NBA history has entered the knockout stages. After starting with all 30 teams divided into six round-robin groups, the field has been whittled down to eight teams, placed into a single-elimination bracket. The quarterfinal round will be played Monday and Tuesday.

In fact, the tournament will be wrapped up this week. This round’s games will be played at the home venues of the teams with the best group-stage performances, with the winners advancing to the semifinals, which will be held in Las Vegas on Thursday. The tournament’s championship game will follow on Saturday night, December 9, when we’ll find out who takes home the NBA Cup trophy for the first time.

All In-Season Tournament games also count in the regular season standings. Below are the odds from Tipico Sportsbook for each quarterfinal matchup, as well as game previews and picks. We’ll also offer quick previews on our predicted semifinals and championship matchups.

Quarterfinals

Celtics (-190) at Pacers (+160); Monday, Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m. ET

Boston -4.5; Over/Under 238.5 points

Indiana earned home-court advantage for this game by going 4-0 in group play, while Boston won its group with a 3-1 record. The Celtics are 15-4 overall but just 6-4 on the road, while the Pacers haven’t matched their In-Season Tournament success in other games, with an overall record of 10-8, including a 6-5 mark at home. Conventional wisdom says teams usually play harder and thus defend better in more meaningful games, but the Pacers found success going a different route in the group stage, winning all four of their games while finishing with an average score of 136.5 to 126.8 for a whopping average combined point total of 263.3.

If star Pacers PG Tyrese Haliburton (knee) can’t go for the home side, this would likely turn into a laugher…

The Celtics have more than enough talent to settle for trading baskets, and between the Pacers’ frenetic pace and the potential absence of Kristaps Porzingis’ (calf) rim protection for the Celtics, Boston may not have a choice. If star Pacers PG Tyrese Haliburton (knee) can’t go for the home side, this would likely turn into a laugher, but considering he scored 44 points in his last appearance before sitting one game out with what’s being described as a knee bruise, expect Haliburton to play Monday. These two teams played a regular-season matchup in Boston on Nov. 1, which the Celtics won 155-104.

Best Bet: Over 238.5 points (-112)

Pelicans (+145) at Kings (-170); Monday, 10 p.m.

Spread: Sacramento -4.5; Over/Under 233.5 points

Sacramento earned home-court advantage by sweeping its four group stage games, while the Pelicans bounced back from a loss in their first NBA Cup game to win their group at 3-1. Like the Pacers, the Kings have found more success in the In-Season Tournament than across the rest of their schedule, with an 11-7 record overall, though that includes a 6-2 mark at home. The Pelicans are a modest 11-10 overall and 3-6 on the road, though guard CJ McCollum has been limited to eight appearances by a collapsed lung.

When McCollum plays, New Orleans is 6-2 this season, and he’s expected to suit up Tuesday, having returned from his injury last Wednesday. The Pelicans won two games in three nights against the Kings in November, and while both of those games were in New Orleans, the Pelicans’ wins came despite McCollum’s absence. With both of these talented teams trying to prove they belong in the conversation with the Western Conference’s elites, this one’s likely to come down to the wire.

Best Bet: Pelicans +4.5 (-115)

Knicks (+170) at Bucks (-200); Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Spread: Milwaukee -5.5; Over/Under 221.5 points

The Knicks and Bucks are developing quite the in-season rivalry. They met in the group stage on Nov. 3, with the Bucks winning at home 110-105, and after this game, they’ll have another high-profile showdown at Madison Square Garden on Christmas. Milwaukee won its group with a 4-0 record in round-robin play, while New York claimed the lone wild card spot in the Eastern Conference by winning its next three games after losing to the Bucks.

This rematch is likely to play out like the previous In-Season Tournament matchup between these teams, with plenty of defensive intensity and Milwaukee favored to come out on top thanks to having the best player on the court in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks have a 14-6 overall record compared to New York’s 12-7 mark, and Milwaukee’s 9-1 at home this season, while the Knicks are 6-4 on the road.

Best Bet: Bucks moneyline (-200)

Suns (+110) at Lakers (-130); Tuesday, 10:00 p.m.

Spread: Los Angeles -2.5; Over/Under 225.5 points

The Lakers have already beaten the Suns twice this season, including a 122-119 win in Phoenix during the group stage. Both teams won their other three group stage games. There will be a key difference in Tuesday’s game compared to the first two meetings between these teams, as the Suns are expected to have star guard Devin Booker, who missed the previous two games against LA due to injury. Bradley Beal (back) is out for Phoenix, but having both Booker and Kevin Durant available will make Phoenix a tough out in this star-studded matchup against LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

This one looks like a true coin flip…

The 12-8 Suns have a slight edge in overall record over the 12-9 Lakers, and while LA is 8-2 at home, Phoenix’s 7-3 road record is second-best in the league behind Oklahoma City’s 7-2 mark. This one looks like a true coin flip, so the Suns could be a nice value pick as modest underdogs.

Best Bet: Suns moneyline (+110)

Semifinals

Celtics vs. Bucks; Thursday 5:00 p.m. ET

Futures odds: Celtics (+300 to win tournament); Bucks (+340 to win tournament)

Since a lackluster start to the season, the Bucks enter the knockout stages of the tournament 9-2 in their last 11 games. That includes three tournament games, which they won by margins of 31, three and seven points. However, the Celtics have dominated their Eastern Conference rivals early this season (14-3) and have also shown the ability to win big games (and playoff series) even when Antetokounmpo has dominated. There’s a razor-thin margin here, but Boston has multiple ways to top Milwaukee – particularly if Porzingis is ability to get back on the floor.

Suns vs. Kings; Thursday 8:00 p.m. ET

Futures odds: Kings (+550 to win tournament); Suns (+650 to win tournament)

If the Kings still had home-court advantage, there would be a strong case to make for them. However, on a neutral court, the Suns have the upper hand. They’ve rounded into form of late (8-2 in last 10), and as mentioned above, they have no problem winning on the road. Having Devin Booker on the floor has made all the difference, so the Suns are excellent value as long as he remains healthy.

Championship

Suns vs. Celtics; Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET

From an odds perspective, this matchup creates clear value for the Suns as a future bet prior to the games on Monday and Tuesday. There’s a strong case to made for siding with Phoenix here beyond just the value, however. In 10 games since Nov. 15, the Suns have a net rating of 6.6 – good for the fifth-best in the league. Not coincidentally, that’s the span of time during which Booker has been back to lead the offense. In that same span, the Celtics have a net rating of 5.7. That’s nothing to scoff at, but it does point to some clear value for those that want to jump in the futures market.

Sasha Yodashkin
Sasha Yodashkin has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.
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