NBA In-Season Tournament wildcards, explained: How NBA determines which teams advance to knockout rounds

With the final day of NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play in the books, the Knockout Round picture is set.

In addition to the group winners, there will be two wild card teams that also move on to the Knockout Round. How are these teams determined? Here is what you need to know about the NBA’s In-Season Tournament wild card teams and which teams still have an opportunity to advance.

MORE: NBA In-Season Tournament standings, results, schedule

How NBA determines In-Season Tournament Wildcard teams 

Two of the eight teams that advance to the Knockout Rounds are wild card teams, the other six are group winners. The wild card will be the team from each conference with the best record in Group Play games that finished second in its group.

Final Group Play games, results

Game Time (ET) Result
Bulls at Celtics 7:30 p.m. Celtics 124, Bulls 97
Raptors at Nets 7:30 p.m. Nets 115, Raptors 103 
Hawks at Cavaliers 7:30 p.m. Cavaliers 128, Hawks 105
Bucks at Heat 7:30 p.m. Bucks 131, Heat 124
Hornets at Knicks 7:30 p.m. Knicks 115, Hornets 91
Thunder at Timberwolves 8 p.m. Timberwolves 106, Thunder 103
Rockets at Mavericks 8:30 p.m. Mavericks 121, Rockets 115
Warriors at Kings 10 p.m. Kings 124, Warriors 123

NBA In-Season Tournament Wildcard clinching picture

Eastern Conference

Heading into the last day of the NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play, there were plenty of team’s that could finish as the East’s wild card, but the Knicks’ big win over the Hornets secured their spot in the next round.

  Team Group Record Diff Points
1. Bucks* B 4-0 +46 502
2. Pacers* A 4-0 +39 546
3. Celtics* C 3-1 +27 449
4. Knicks (Wild card) B 3-1 +42 440

The Pacers clinched East Group A and advanced to the Quarterfinals as a group winner. In Group B, the Bucks clinched their spot in the Knockout Round, while the Celtics took out top spot in Group C. 

Western Conference

After losing their first game in the Tournament, the Suns reeled off three straight wins and racked up enough point differential to snatch the West’s wild card spot. 

  Team Group Record Diff Points
1. Lakers* A 4-0 +74 494
2. Kings C 4-0 +30 482
3. Pelicans B 3-1 +33 463
4. Suns (Wild card) A 3-1 +34 480

MORE: In-Season Tournament games on Nov. 24 set up busy final day

NBA In-Season Tournament Wildcard tiebreakers, explained

In the event that there are multiple second-place teams with the same record, there is a sequence of tiebreakers used in order to determine which team advances.

Tiebreakers are decided in this order:

  • Head-to-head record in the Group Stage;
  • Point differential in the Group Stage;
  • Total points scored in the Group Stage;
  • Regular-season record from the 2022-23 NBA regular season; and
  • Random drawing (in the unlikely scenario that two or more teams are still tied following the previous tiebreakers).

What happens to teams that are eliminated from the NBA In-Season Tournament?

The 22 teams that do not qualify for the Knockout Rounds will play two regular-season games during tournament off nights that week (Dec. 6 and 8). The four teams that lose in the Quarterfinals will play a regular-season game on Dec. 8.


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