How Knicks can secure spot in next round of NBA In-Season Tournament

How Knicks can secure spot in next round of NBA In-Season Tournament

The Knicks may find themselves in the strange scenario of needing to increase their point differential in Tuesday’s group stage finale to advance in the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. 

At the minimum, the Knicks will need to win against the Hornets at the Garden to improve to 3-1 in the first round — and possibly move on to the knockout stage of the NBA Cup, with a chance to either win Group B or earn a wild-card berth, depending on other league results. 

The Bucks (3-0) and the Heat (2-1 after losing at MSG on Friday) will face each other Tuesday night, and a Miami win would set up a potential three-way tie at 3-1. 

“To me, winning is the big thing. Don’t get lost in all that other stuff. Just figure out what we have to do to win,” Tom Thibodeau said Monday. “I just wanna win. That’s it. Just play the right way. 

“But it’s different. Everyone is dealing with the same thing. So, you’re looking at all the possibilities.” 

Tom Thibodeau
Tom Thibodeau doesn’t want his team to get lost on point differential. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

According to the league’s website, the Knicks will clinch the group with a Milwaukee loss and a better point differential than the other two teams.

The Bucks, who defeated the Knicks by five points on Nov. 3, currently own a plus-39 differential, with the Knicks (plus-18) needing to make up 21 points and the Heat behind them at plus-11. 

The Knicks also can land one of two wild-card spots at 3-1 if they win a similar tiebreaker over second-place finishers of other groups with the same record. 

The championship game will take place Dec. 9 in Las Vegas, and each player on the winning team will earn $500,000. 

“If someone said you could go to Vegas and win $500k, would you want to do that?” RJ Barrett said. “The first thing is you have to win. You have to focus on doing that, and then we’ll see what happens. As long as you win, you have a chance. 

“If you are able to secure that early enough in the game, then of course, you try to get the number.” 

Thibodeau said “everyone practiced” Monday, including center Mitchell Robinson, who said after Sunday’s loss to the Suns that he was dealing with back pain. 

The Knicks waived injured guard Duane Washington Jr. and signed wing Jaylen Martin to a two-way contract. 

LaMelo Ball (ankle) is doubtful and Frank Ntilikina (tibia) Cody Martin (knee) and Nick Richards (concussion protocol) are out for the Hornets.