The last games of the group stage of the In-Season Tournament, the tournament organized within the regular season of the NBA basketball championship, were played on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday. In the last month, for the first time in the history of the North American championship, the matches played counted towards both the regular season and the groups of the In-Season tournament, comparable to the national cups of European football. Eight qualified for the direct elimination phase which will establish, again on one-off matches, the four teams participating in the Final Four scheduled in Las Vegas between 7 and 9 December.
The next matches scheduled from December 4th are therefore Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings-New Orleans Pelicans, Milwaukee Bucks-New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers-Boston Celtics. Neither the Denver Nuggets nor the Miami Heat, the two finalists from last season, nor Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors made it through to the group stage.
To differentiate a new tournament for the NBA, the league decided to play the games on particular and highly recognizable parquets. The playing surfaces in the various arenas of the championship were already subject to frequent changes between championship games, but always maintaining the classic pattern expected for the NBA basketball court. For the In-Season tournament the parquet floors were completely transformed, painted entirely with the colors of the teams’ uniforms and occupied by the design of a gigantic trophy, the one that will be awarded at the end of the tournament.
These new parquet floors have managed to get noticed and memes and other ironies about their rather bright colors are still circulating online. But there were also criticisms and discussions. Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics, for example, was slightly injured after slipping on the parquet in Toronto, like other players in that game: «The field was slippery throughout the game. As players we are all here for the seasonal tournament because it generates revenue, excitement and new competitiveness. However, we must ensure that the camps are safe. Tonight the parquet was unacceptable, we slipped everywhere.” The problem also affected other fields, such as that of Dallas, and appears to have been caused by the paints used to entirely cover the playing area.
At the beginning of the tournament, the Boston Celtics had their request to include a portion of their historic woven wooden parquet, the one on which Boston has always been played, denied. Other players from other teams spoke of difficulties in measuring spaces and recognizing the lines between all those colors. LeBron James had no problems and the video in which he tested the Los Angeles parquet has circulated a lot in recent weeks.
Another issue that arose during the first matches of the In-Season tournament concerned the points scored by the teams in the final stages of the match. In the NBA, but also in basketball in general, there is an unwritten rule among players according to which in the final seconds of games, in the event of an outcome that is already certain and therefore with a team with a clear advantage, they gradually stop playing. The winning team, if in possession, usually gives up scoring the last basket.
In the group stage of the In-Season tournament, however, the point difference mattered because it was used to determine ranking positions in the event of a tie. This consequently influenced the progress and management of the matches. The teams competing for qualification have reduced player turnover and have often left their starters on the pitch even in the final minutes of widely controlled matches.
In some cases the teams in the lead also continued to score in the final seconds to improve their point difference, which some did not like, such as Jayson Tatum, another Boston Celtics player, who in recent days he said in this regard: «Respect for the game and the opponents is essential in basketball. So I’m not a big fan of this points difference.”
As for spectators, the In-Season tournament it seems to be working. The NBA had decided to introduce it mainly to try to revive both the competition between teams and the interest of the public in a period that is usually interlocutory for the regular season, where the games do not mean much and are still far from being spectacular or at least decisive for qualification for the playoffs. The definitive data are not yet available, but after two weeks of the tournament the league had announced an average of 1.7 million spectators for the first matches, with an increase of 55 percent compared to the regular season matches played in the same period last year. last year.
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