In-Season Tournament: Vital questions before Cavaliers final game

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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In-Season Tournament Recap

The NBA designated every Tuesday and Friday in November as "Tournament Nights" (the one exception being Election Day, when no NBA games were scheduled) and tonight is the final one. Games played on tournament nights counted for both the tournament and the regular season standings.

The Cavaliers were placed in East Group A, along with the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. The Pacers defeated the Cavaliers on the first night of tournament action, then went on to beat the other three teams. They are 4-0 and are a lock to advance to the Knockout Stage.

The Los Angeles Lakers are also 4-0 and will advance, but the other six spots are up for grabs tonight. As many as 16 teams could still qualify for the next round, so tonight could be a maelstrom of chaos.

The Cavaliers bounced back from that initial loss in Indiana to beat the Pistons and 76ers on the road, placing them at 2-1 heading into tonight's home tilt vs Atlanta. They can't win the group (Indiana has locked that up) but they could still advance as the East Wild Card.

***Note: If the right series of losses occur tonight, a team could technically advance as a 2-2 Wild Card. That outcome is so unlikely we'll assume losing a second game eliminates you for the purposes of this article.

What is happening tonight?

The Cavaliers are one of 10 Eastern Conference teams in action tonight, and all five games will tip off at 7:30 PM ET, injecting maximum tension/excitement/chaos into the evening. Here are the five games, all of which matter for the Cavaliers' chances of advancing:

  • Hornets @ Knicks - If the Knicks win this game and Milwaukee loses, they will win Group B. The Knicks can also win this game and make the Wild Card at 3-1 if their point differential is the best among second-place teams (currently +18)
  • Bucks @ Heat - If the Bucks win, they will be 4-0 and win Group B, and the Heat will be 2-2 and functionally eliminated. If the Heat win instead, both teams will be 3-1 and it will come down to a tiebreaker. If the Knicks have lost, the Heat will win based on their head-to-head win over the Bucks; if the Knicks win, the three-way tiebreaker will go to point differential. Milwaukee is currently +39, and the Heat are +11.
  • Raptors @ Nets - The Brooklyn Nets can win Group C if they win and Boston loses to Chicago, or if their point differential passes the Celtics. Currently, Boston has an even differential and the Nets are +8. If the Nets lose, the Orlando Magic win the group (they've already secured a 3-1 record and the tiebreaker over Boston).
  • Bulls @ Celtics - The Celtics will need to beat the Bulls by at least 23 points and hope that the Nets beat the Raptors (and by no more than eight points fewer than Boston's margin of victory) to win Group C. If they don't win the group, they'll need to gain a lot of ground in point differential to beat other East teams for the Wild Card.