Ahead of each of Boston’s In-Season Tournament games, we here at Celtics.com have been giving you a quick rundown of what’s at stake each night, and what the team’s IST future might look like following that night’s game. We’re doing it again today, but this time, the message is a bit simpler to understand.
Boston’s stakes in the In-Season Tournament have finally become crystal clear heading into tonight’s matchup with Indiana: Win, and advance to Las Vegas. Lose, and the team is eliminated from the tournament.
The inaugural In-Season Tournament has now reached the Knockout Stage, which means every game from this point forward features a win-or-go-home scenario. The Knockout Stage tips off with tonight’s matchup between the Celtics and the Pacers at 7:30 p.m. in Indiana.
Up until this point, the In-Season Tournament had been a bit convoluted. Dozens of possible scenarios were based upon the results of games played around the league on Tuesdays and Fridays from Nov. 3 through Nov. 28.
For example, the Celtics needed a borderline miracle – a victory by at least 23 points over Chicago, combined with a Brooklyn win over Toronto by at least nine points fewer than Boston’s victory – last week to advance to the Knockout Stage. Somehow, all of those stars aligned for Boston and it wound up winning its group to advance to the next stage.
And now here we are, with far more clarity on the future of the quarterfinals teams.
Four teams from each conference have advanced to the Knockout Stage and are now playing for a trip to Las Vegas and a berth into the semifinals of the tournament. In the East quarterfinals, the Celtics visit the Pacers, and the Knicks visit the Bucks. In the West quarterfinals, the Kings host the Pelicans, and the Lakers host the Suns.
The winning teams will advance to play in Thursday night’s semifinals games in Las Vegas, which will be played back-to-back and on the same court, similar to the NCAA’s Final Four.
The losing teams will be eliminated from the tournament and will play a regular-season game Friday night.
Due to logistical reasons, Boston is assured to host a home game Friday night in the event of a quarterfinals loss. It will host the loser of the Bucks-Knicks quarterfinals game, which will be played at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Milwaukee.
So, the long and short of it for Boston is simple and is as follows: If the Celtics win tonight, they will advance to Las Vegas and will play Thursday night in the IST semifinals against the winner of the Knicks-Bucks game. If the Celtics lose tonight, they will instead host the loser of the Knicks-Bucks game Friday night at TD Garden for a regular-season matchup.
How about that for simplicity!
Finally, Boston’s IST stakes are clear and digestible. We’ve come a long way since this tournament opened up back on Nov. 3.