Victor Wembanyama headlines NBA's in-season tournament group play

ByTim Bontemps ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The NBA is using its new tournament to showcase its newest star.

The league unveiled the group-play schedule for its inaugural in-season tournament Tuesday afternoon on ESPN's "NBA Today," and the San Antonio Spurs -- led by No. 1 draft pickVictor Wembanyama-- are the only team that has more than two of its four group-play games on ESPN and TNT.

All 30 NBA teams play four games -- all part of their regular 82-game schedule -- against conference opponents they were grouped together with when the league officially announced the new event last month during summer league in Las Vegas.

Those four group-stage games -- which will consist of two home and two road games for each team -- will take place across seven dates in November: four Fridays (the 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th), and three Tuesdays (the 14th, 21st and 28th), with the league once again having no games scheduled on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 7).

The Spurs -- who are in a group with the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder -- open group play on Nov. 10 against the Timberwolves. From there, the Spurs will face Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder on TNT on Nov. 14, Domantas Sabonis and the Kings on ESPN on Nov. 17 and Stephen Curry and the Warriors on ESPN on Nov. 24.

The first day of tournament action -- Friday, Nov. 3 -- will be highlighted by the New York Knicks heading to Milwaukee to face the Bucks and the Dallas Mavericks traveling to Denver to face the defending champion Nuggets, with both games airing on ESPN. It will then wrap up on Tuesday, Nov. 28, with the Bucks traveling to take on the Miami Heat before the final game of the entire group stage: Golden State vs. Sacramento in a rematch of their first-round playoff series.

The NBA had previously unveiled the six five-team groups -- three consisting of Eastern Conference teams and three of Western Conference foes -- that will make up the group stage of the tournament:

East Group A: 76ers, Cavaliers, Hawks, Pacers, Pistons

East Group B: Bucks, Knicks, Heat, Wizards, Hornets

East Group C: Celtics, Nets, Raptors, Bulls, Magic

West Group A: Grizzlies, Suns, Lakers, Jazz, Trail Blazers

West Group B: Nuggets, Clippers, Pelicans, Mavericks, Rockets

West Group C: Kings, Warriors, Timberwolves, Thunder, Spurs

To create the groups, the NBA used a World Cup-style draw process, splitting each conference into five pots that were separated by the 2022-23 regular-season standings. Pot 1 featured the teams that finished first through third, followed by teams 4-6 landing in Pot 2, then teams 7-9 landing in Pot 3, teams 10-12 landing in Pot 4 and teams 13-15 landing in Pot 5.

From there, one team was randomly selected from each of the five pots, a process designed to create three evenly matched groups.

Each of the six group winners will advance to the knockout round, along with the highest-finishing team that didn't win a group from each conference. Those eight teams will play quarterfinal games on Dec. 4 and 5, with the higher-seeded team getting the home games.

The winners of those four quarterfinal games will then advance to the semifinals, which will be held in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 7, with the championship game to be held there two days later.

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