NBA In-Season Tournament Explainer: Schedule, Format, and More

NBA in-Season tournament art

From NCAA March Madness to World Cup soccer, tournaments can provide some of the most potent and enduring memories in all of sport. With its brand new In-Season Tournament, the NBA is now looking to capitalize on some of that magic, and not just in Orlando.


The NBA In-Season Tournament gets underway on Friday, Nov. 3, marking the first of seven days spread across the month that will feature group stage games for all 30 teams in the league. If that last sentence left you confused, don’t worry, we’re here to explain everything you need to know about the NBA’s newest competition.



As its name suggests, the NBA In-Season Tournament is not a separate competition outside of the regular season. Instead, each team will play four “group stage” games whose results count toward the regular season standings but also determine which teams advance to the knockout round.

If you’ve watched World Cup soccer, you’re familiar with the group stage/ knockout format. In this case, all 30 NBA teams have been sorted into six groups of five teams, and the group stage consists of four games, one against each team in your group, a “round-robin” schedule. The groups, which are split evenly between East and West, were randomly determined based on last year’s win-loss record. They are:

After group play finishes on Nov. 28, eight teams will advance to the knockout rounds: the team atop each of the six groups and one wild card team from each conference (click here for full tiebreaking scenarios). The knockout rounds consist of three single-elimination games: Quarterfinals, which will take place on the higher-seeded team’s home court on Dec. 4-5; Semifinals, which will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Dec. 7; and the Championship from Vegas on Dec. 9. Quarterfinal and semifinal games will count toward the regular season; only the teams competing in the championship will play an extra game that won’t impact the standings.



One of the questions surrounding the tournament is how much motivation players will have to win what is, at this stage, a fairly novel prize. The NBA handled this by making the tournament games count toward regular season standings, the baseline motivator for all players and teams across the league. They also sweetened the pot by throwing in cash prizes for both players and, as Adrian Wojnarowski reports, coaches; the players and head coach on the winning team will earn an extra $500,000; runners up get $200,000; semifinalists get $100,000; and quarterfinalists will make $50,000.



All group stage games will be played on seven “Tournament Nights” throughout November: four Fridays (Nov. 3, 10, 17 and 24) and three Tuesdays (Nov. 14, 21 and 28). 14 group play games will be nationally televised, along with all seven knockout round games. To watch the remainder of the tournament games, subscribe to NBA League or Team Pass using this link. Not a DISH subscriber? Follow this link to find the best offer and subscribe to DISH today!

Here’s the full schedule of the group stage games, nationally televised games are highlighted in bold.


Friday, Nov. 3

New York vs. Milwaukee – 7:30pm – ESPN

Dallas vs. Denver – 10pm – ESPN

Cleveland vs. Indiana – 7pm

Washington vs. Miami – 8pm

Brooklyn vs. Chicago – 8pm

Golden State vs. Oklahoma City – 8pm

Memphis vs. Portland – 10pm


Friday, Nov. 10

Brooklyn vs. Boston – 7:30pm – ESPN

L.A. Lakers vs. Phoenix – 10pm – ESPN

Philadelphia vs. Detroit – 7pm

Charlotte vs. Washington – 7pm

New Orleans vs. Houston – 8pm

Utah vs. Memphis – 8pm

Minnesota vs. San Antonio – 8pm

LA Clippers vs. Dallas – 8:30pm

Oklahoma City vs. Sacramento – 10pm


Tuesday, Nov. 14

San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City – 7:30pm – TNT

LA Clippers vs. Denver – 10pm – TNT

Miami vs. Charlotte – 7pm

Atlanta vs. Detroit – 7pm

Indiana vs. Philadelphia – 7pm

Orlando vs. Brooklyn – 7:30pm

Dallas vs. New Orleans – 8pm

Portland vs. Utah – 9pm

Minnesota vs. Golden State – 10pm

Memphis vs. L.A. Lakers – 10:30pm


Friday, Nov. 17

Philadelphia vs. Atlanta – 7:30pm – ESPN

Sacramento vs. San Antonio – 7:30pm – ESPN

Phoenix vs. Utah – 10pm – ESPN

Milwaukee vs. Charlotte – 7pm

New York vs. Washington – 7pm

Detroit vs. Cleveland – 7:30pm

Boston vs. Toronto – 7:30pm

Orlando vs. Chicago – 8pm

Denver vs. New Orleans – 8:30pm

L.A. Lakers vs. Portland – 10pm

Houston vs. LA Clippers – 10:30pm


Tuesday, Nov. 21

Cleveland vs. Philadelphia – 7:30pm – TNT

Utah vs. L.A. Lakers – 10pm – TNT

Toronto vs. Orlando – 7pm

Indiana vs. Atlanta – 7:30pm

Portland vs. Phoenix – 9pm


Friday, Nov. 24

Boston vs. Orlando – 2:30pm – NBA TV

Phoenix vs. Memphis – 5pm – NBA TV

Miami vs. New York – 7:30pm – ESPN

San Antonio vs. Golden State – 10pm – ESPN

Chicago vs. Toronto – 7:30pm

Detroit vs. Indiana – 8pm

Denver vs. Houston – 8pm

Washington vs. Milwaukee – 8pm

Sacramento vs. Minnesota – 8pm

New Orleans vs. LA Clippers – 10:30pm


Tuesday, Nov. 28

Milwaukee vs. Miami – 7:30pm – TNT

Golden State vs. Sacramento – 10pm – TNT

Chicago vs. Boston – 7:30pm

Toronto vs. Brooklyn – 7:30pm

Atlanta vs. Cleveland – 7:30pm

Charlotte vs. New York – 7:30pm

Oklahoma City vs. Minnesota – 7pm