Knicks 1-1 in NBA’s new In-Season Tournament


WASHINGTON — The courts are different, and the stakes are higher.
The Knicks stepped onto a teal and gray basketball court at D.C.’s Capital One Arena and walked off with a 1-1 record in the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament.
They have two more tournament group stage games left to determine their qualification status for the knockout rounds in Las Vegas, set to begin in the first week of December at the T-Mobile Arena, home of the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights.
Teams are divided into groups in the league’s new mid-season addition, and the Knicks are in Eastern Conference Group B, alongside the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets and the Wizards.
The Knicks sit in the middle of the pack. The Bucks — as expected by a roster headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard — are tied with the Miami Heat for first in Group B with a 2-0 record. Milwaukee handed the Knicks its first In-Season Tournament loss in a five-point win sparked by late-game Lillard heroics.
The Hornets are 1-2 in group stage play, and the Wizards are a winless 0-3.
The Knicks play the Heat in their next group stage game on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and they will debut an alternate, bright orange court with a deep blue streak down the middle.
It could be a nightmare for viewers trying to track a basketball on the television, but the players believe the basketball is closer to brown than orange, and that the color won’t impact gameplay.
“The ball is really not that orange,” said star guard Jalen Brunson. “The best basketballs aren’t orange. They’re not orange. They’re used.”
For what it’s worth, the players seem excited about In-Season Tournament games. Or at the very least, they can tell there’s a heightened level of competition over a normal regular-season game.
“It’s noted. How can you not [tell the difference] when you walk on the court when it’s gray, when it’s red, pink, purple, whatever the hell it is,” All-Star forward Julius Randle said on Friday. “But you can definitely feel the intensity up a little bit. So they did a good job. Credit to the commissioner and the league for coming up with this.”
There is a school of thought, however, suggesting teams may benefit from failing to qualify for the Las Vegas knockout round. Only eight of the NBA’s 30 teams will play in Vegas for the championship: The best team in each of the six groups (three per conference), and one Wild Card team from each group.
The Wild Card is the team that has the best record of the teams that finished second in each group, with tiebreakers first determined by head-to-head record then margin of victory — a distinctive feature from international play on the FIBA World Cup stage.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau — who notably plays his starters late in blowout games — laughed at the idea that the In-Season Tournament’s margin of victory format would make him play his starters even later.
“I don’t get stuck in all that. I just want to win. So we’re gonna play the right way. That’s the bottom line,” he said with a smile. “I think the interest is good for the fans. I think the important thing for us is to understand each and every game counts the same, and to lock into that, so don’t get caught up in all the other stuff, ‘cause when you do that, that’s usually when you get knocked down.”


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