NBA In-Season Tournament ‘met its intended purpose,’ Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau says

Lots of people still don’t quite understand the NBA In-Season Tournament, but that’s OK, because it was clearly on the minds of plenty of players on Tuesday night.

Tuesday marked the final day of group play for the tournament, and it brought some funky coaching styles. The Boston Celtics, needing a high point differential as part of a tiebreaker to advance, decided to hack Andre Drummond to force him to shoot free throws, despite being up more than 30 points in the fourth quarter.

New York Knicks’ RJ Barrett was even caught saying that his team had to “run [the score] up,” and the Knicks left their starters in much later than they probably would have if it was just any other game.

Both the Knicks and Celtics advanced, as point-differential did eventually play a role.

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Knicks in season tournament court

An overall view of the court before the game between the Charlotte Hornets and the New York Knicks during the In-Season Tournament on November 28, 2023 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.   (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

So, while many believe it’s just some sort of money grab, it certainly seemed to grab the attention of players and staff.

“I guess it’s met its intended purpose,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday night following their 115-91 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Knicks guard Josh Hart admitted it was “weird” thinking about point differential in a game, rather than simply just closing it out.

“It’s an interesting concept,” he added.

The NBA has outdone itself in promoting the tournament, with courts designed like they were created on the “2K” video game. 

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An overall view of the New Orleans Pelicans In-Season Tournament court before the game against the Denver Nuggets during the In-Season Tournament on November 17, 2023 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)

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However, the playing surface of the courts has resulted in some minor injuries. Jaylen Brown and Luka Doncic have both called out the NBA, saying the courts need to be better, and the NBA needs to prioritize the health of its players.

Each member of the tournament winner will receive an extra $500,000, so it’s easy to understand why the intensity was upped just a bit on Fridays and Tuesdays in the first two months of the season.

Tom Thibodeau New York Knicks

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Monday, March 20, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

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The tournament is now in a one-game elimination bracket with eight teams remaining. The semifinals and finals will be played in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 and 9, respectively.

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