NBA tournament: Destination Vegas

Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker reacts during an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker reacts during an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)


It's four regular-season games in early December. Ordinarily, they'd be forgotten shortly after the final buzzer.

That likely won't happen this time.

The NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament has reached the knockout stage -- with quarterfinal games today and Tuesday to decide which four teams go to Las Vegas later this week to play for the NBA Cup and the bulk of a prize pool that will total about $18 million.

Today's games have Boston visiting Indiana and New Orleans going to Sacramento. On Tuesday, it'll be New York at Milwaukee and Phoenix at the Los Angeles Lakers. Winners go to the semifinals while losers are out and will play a regular-season game later this week against another team that lost in the quarterfinals.

"I just want to make every appeal I can to our fans that we need the loudest building possible," Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle said. "To show you that no good deed goes unpunished, we draw the team with the best record in basketball. But we do get to play them at home. So, that's something important. We need our building to be as loud and raucous as it possibly can and we need to throw a game out there that's exceptional."

The Lakers, Kings, Pelicans, Bucks, Pacers and Celtics got to the quarterfinals by winning their groups in the tournament's opening round. The Knicks and Suns got in as wild cards, one from each conference.

"A lot on the line. Winner goes to Vegas, so I think everyone's looking forward to it," Suns guard Devin Booker said, looking ahead to Tuesday. "It'll be fun."

The matchups:

CELTICS VS. PACERS

Boston Celtics (15-4, 3-1) at Indiana Pacers (10-8, 4-0), today, 6:30 p.m. CST (TNT)

SERIES THIS SEASON Celtics 1-0 (won 155-104 in Boston on Nov. 1).

BOSTON STAT LEADERS Jaylen Brown (24.8 ppg, 47% shooting), Jayson Tatum (21.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Jrue Holiday (13.7 ppg, 9 rpg, 7.7 apg).

INDIANA STAT LEADERS Tyrese Haliburton (28.5 ppg, 13.5 apg), Myles Turner (19.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Obi Toppin (17.3 ppg, 67% shooting).

OUTLOOK Indiana scores (and allows) more points than any team in the NBA this season and earned the right to be home for the quarterfinals against the team with the best record in the league. The 51-point Celtics romp earlier this season was without Haliburton playing, and it certainly has been remembered by the Pacers.

KNICKS VS. BUCKS

New York Knicks (12-7, 3-1) at Milwaukee Bucks (14-6, 4-0), Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. CST (TNT)

SERIES THIS SEASON Bucks 1-0 (won 110-105 in Milwaukee on Nov. 3 in a tournament game).

NEW YORK STAT LEADERS Jalen Brunson (28.3 ppg, 54% shooting), Immanuel Quickley (21 ppg, 43% three-point shooting), Julius Randle (19 ppg, 11.8 rpg).

MILWAUEE STAT LEADERS Damian Lillard (30 ppg, 7 apg), Giannis Antetokounmpo (25.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, 62% shooting), Brook Lopez (19.8 ppg, 60% shooting).

OUTLOOK The Knicks have given up the fewest points per game in the league to this point, and Brunson had a tournament-high 45-point game against the Bucks. But the Bucks made 20 three-pointers in that game, and now Lillard and Antetokounmpo get to play for one title before continuing to rev up for the one they want most in June.

PELICANS VS. KINGS

New Orleans Pelicans (11-10, 3-1) at Sacramento Kings (11-7, 4-0), today, 9 p.m. CST (TNT)

SERIES THIS SEASON Pelicans 2-0 (won 129-93 on Nov. 20 and 117-112 on Nov. 22, both in New Orleans).

NEW ORLEANS STAT LEADERS Brandon Ingram (26.8 ppg, 6.3 apg), Zion Williamson (25.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Jonas Valanciunas (13.8 ppg, 7 rpg).

SACRAMENTO STAT LEADERS De'Aaron Fox (36 ppg, 8.7 apg, 8 rpg), Malik Monk (17.5 ppg off bench), Kevin Huerter (17 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Domantas Sabonis (17 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 8.8 apg).

OUTLOOK The Kings sure act like this matters to them, given that they've already pulled off comebacks from 18 and 24 points down to win games in this tournament. The Pelicans will be confident after beating the Kings twice, and a win here would send Williamson back to Las Vegas -- where his Summer League debut in 2019 was groundshaking.

SUNS VS. LAKERS

Phoenix Suns (12-8, 3-1) at Los Angeles Lakers (12-9, 4-0), Tuesday, 9 p.m. CST (TNT)

SERIES THIS SEASON Lakers 2-0 (won 100-95 in Los Angeles on Oct. 26, won 122-119 in Phoenix on Nov. 10 in a tournament game).

PHOENIX STAT LEADERS Kevin Durant (35.7 ppg, 7.7 apg, 7.3 rpg, 59% shooting), Devin Booker (30.7 ppg, 8.3 apg, 55% shooting), Jusuf Nurkic (13.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg).

LA LAKERS STAT LEADERS LeBron James (25 ppg, 8 rpg, 7.5 apg), Anthony Davis (19.8 ppg, 13 rpg, 3 bpg), D'Angelo Russell (19.3 ppg, 7 apg).

OUTLOOK The winner of this game will surely feel like the home team in Las Vegas, based on how well the Suns and Lakers typically draw for Summer League games there. James wants to own a team in Las Vegas when the NBA expands. The Suns are 7-2 this season when Booker and Durant are both playing. Booker didn't play in either of the Suns-Lakers games earlier this season.

  photo  Milwaukee Bucks' Damian Lillard drives to the basket under pressure from Chicago Bulls' Nikola Vucevic and Alex Caruso during an overtime period of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
 
 
  photo  Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle gestures during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
 
 
  photo  Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum (0) protests a call just before being ejected during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
 
 
  photo  Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James watches as his shot spins around the rim but doesn't go in during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
 
 
  photo  Sacramento Kings guard Kevin Huerter, center, puts up a three point shot as Cleveland Cavaliers guard Max Strus, center right, defends in the second half in an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)
 
 
  photo  New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson (1) goes up for a shot while being fouled by Chicago Bulls' Torrey Craig (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Chicago. Chicago won 124-118. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
 
 
  photo  New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) drives at the Toronto Raptors defense during second-half NBA basketball game action in Toronto, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press via AP)
 
 


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