All the ways the Knicks can advance in NBA’s in-season tournament

All the ways the Knicks can advance in NBA’s in-season tournament

If the Knicks can defeat a potentially shorthanded Miami Heat team in their In-Season Tournament group stage game at Madison Square Garden on Friday, they will be on track to sneak into the Knockout Rounds in Las Vegas as an Eastern Conference wild card.

The Knicks are unlikely to qualify for an automatic bid to the Vegas rounds in the league’s inaugural cup competition after losing their first group stage game to by five to the Milwaukee Bucks.

However, of the eight teams that will advance to the knockout rounds out West, two will come by consolation spots given to the best runner-up in each conference.

The Knicks can be just that – the best runner-up – and whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas with a sudden-death format for the first-ever NBA Cup on the line.

Here are the scenarios to keep in mind:

Knicks beat Heat and Hornets; Bucks go undefeated; Nets fail to blowout Raptors; Magic fall to Celtics; Cavs fail to blowout Hawks.

The cleanest path to Vegas lies in a victory against the Heat on Friday and a Brooklyn Nets loss or small-margin victory in their In-Season Tournament finale against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.

The Bucks (2-0) and Heat (2-0) are tied for first in East Group B, but the Heat could be without All-Star center Bam Adebayo due to a hip injury. If Adebayo can’t go, Miami will be an underdog against the glass-dominant Knicks at The Garden on Friday. Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson is also questionable with a thumb injury.

If the Knicks (1-1) secure a victory over the Heat, their group stage finale will come against a Charlotte Hornets team they are heavily favored against at home on Tuesday.

Working in their favor, the Knicks have a plus-16 point differential, which ranks first among all wild card teams.

The NBA uses point differential – or margin of victory or defeat – to break ties between teams with identical group stage records.

The Knicks are the only team that has only played two group stage games in the hunt for an East wild card spot.


The Nets are 2-1 in group stage play with their finale looming against the Raptors on Tuesday. Brooklyn has a point differential of plus-eight after three In-Season Tournament games. They will need to outscore the Raptors by nine more points than the Knicks outscore both the Heat and Hornets combined if they are to qualify for the knockout rounds as a wild card.

If the Knicks defeat the Heat by five and the Hornets by 10, the Nets must outscore the Raptors by 24 to own the point differential tiebreaker against the Knicks.


The Cavaliers are 2-1 in group stage play and can go 3-1 with a victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.

However, the Cavaliers only have a point differential of plus-six against plus-16 for the Knicks.

That means if Cleveland were to defeat Atlanta, and the Knicks were to win out against Miami and Charlotte, the Cavaliers would need to blowout the Hawks by 11 more points than the Knicks outscore both the Heat and Hornets.

If the Knicks were to beat the Heat by five and the Hornets by 10, the Cavs would need to beat the Hawks by 26 to rank higher than the Knicks as a wildcard for Vegas.


The Magic are also in the hunt for a wild card spot and have been rolling as winners of five in a row and eight of their last 10 games. Their final group stage game, however, comes against a championship-contending Celtics team, and the Magic point differential is only plus-five.

The Magic would need to accomplish the unenviable feat of a landslide victory over Boston’s superstar trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis to have a chance at qualifying over the Knicks should New York win out.


Any scenario in which the Knicks are tied with the Bucks at a 3-1 record instantly disqualifies the Knicks from wild card contention because they lost in the In-Season Tournament opener in Milwaukee and the Bucks hold the tiebreaker.

The Bucks also own a point differential of plus-36, which is a high mark to match, but irrelevant for the Knicks given they do not hold the tiebreaker.


If the Knicks lose to the Heat on Friday or Hornets on Tuesday, they will fail to qualify for the knockout rounds in Las Vegas.


The Magic have stunned the basketball world with a 10-5 start to the regular season and host the Celtics on Friday. A Boston loss to Orlando on Friday would give the Magic the tiebreaker over the Celtics and punch a blue-and-white ticket to Las Vegas with the Celtics seeking wild card qualification.

The Celtics own a point differential of plus-17 to the Knicks’ plus-16, but a loss to the Magic would put a dent in the margin. Boston’s group stage final comes against the struggling Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.

If the Celtics were to lose to the Magic and beat the Bulls, they could hypothetically tie the Knicks with a 3-1 record and have their knockout round qualification decided by point differential.

Both teams tipoff their In-Season Tournament finales at home on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.


The Los Angeles Lakers (4-0) went undefeated in group stage play, and Indiana Pacers (3-0) are undefeated with one game left on the schedule.

Both teams have clinched knockout round appearances.

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