Tuesday is the last day of group play in the NBA’s new in-season tournament and despite how confusing it seems, it’s been a success where it matters.
The ratings are up for games shown on ESPN — 55% more viewers than for games in similar TV windows last season, according to The Associated Press. The customized courts have created conversation or consternation for their brightness.
Most important, the players embraced the competitiveness that commissioner Adam Silver hoped for. The Nets know that hosting the Raptors isn’t just another game.
“I think it’s a completely different feel with a regular-season game and in-season tournament game,” Trendon Watford said. "I’m looking forward to Tuesday and I know that’s a big game for us to go to Vegas.
“I know we got to win by a certain amount [Tuesday], but I mean shoot, who don’t like money," Spencer Dinwiddie added. "Hey, listen, half a million dollars. That will pay for my Rolls Royce.”
The $500,000 is for each player on the team that wins the tournament championship in Las Vegas. For players on teams who reach the knockout-round quarterfinals on Dec. 4-5, they’ll earn $50,000 if they lose, and $100,000 if they lose in the semifinals, also in Las Vegas.
The Nets, at 2-1, are tied for second place in East Group C with the Celtics, but they still have a chance to win the group or qualify for the fourth wild-card spot. Here are the scenarios:
The Nets will clinch first place in Group C if they defeat the Raptors and the Celtics lose to the Bulls. If the Nets and Celtics win, it goes to the first tiebreaker, which is point differential.
The Magic, who are currently in first place in East Group C, have a 22-point differential, followed by the Nets’ eight-point differential and the Celtics' zero-point differential. If all three teams are tied, the Nets have to win by at least 14 points and hope the Celtics don’t win by at least 23.
If there’s still a tiebreaker needed after that, it goes to total points scored. The Magic have scored 446 points, so the Nets need to reach at least 106 points Tuesday while hoping the Celtics don’t score over 121.
For the wild-card spot, the Nets need more help in two scenarios. First, the Nets can clinch it with a win Tuesday plus losses by the Cavaliers, Knicks and Heat.
Second, the Nets have to win, clinch second place in Group C and win the tiebreaker over any second-place team from another group. The last part requires the Nets to have a higher point differential than the Knicks (10 points ahead), Heat (five points ahead) and Cavaliers (two points behind).
If it all sounds complicated, it is. Both the Nets and Celtics play at the same time, 7:30 p.m., as do the Hawks, Cavaliers and Knicks, so fans will do their share of scoreboard watching.
It’s exactly the drama the league hoped for, and the Nets understand it. That’s why they’re not treating Tuesday as just another game with more at stake.
“I think that’s why we are one of the most innovative leagues in the world,” Dinwiddie said of the tournament. “So credit to Adam Silver and the brain trust that created it. If it’s good for the league, I’m all for it.”