NBA In-Season Tournament tiebreakers: How are the wild card teams determined

Sacramento Kings v Golden State Warriors
Sacramento Kings v Golden State Warriors / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

After initial doubts, the NBA’s first In-Season Tournament has found quite the success. Players are excited about going to Las Vegas as well as the prize money and seem to have embraced the new competition. 

The first stage of the tournament is almost over with one last day of group play games left. After this, eight teams will move on to the Knockout Rounds—the six group winners and two wild card teams.

So far, only the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Lakers have secured their tickets to the next round. Other than that, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Sacramento Kings are the only undefeated teams left, meaning that they have a good chance to move on as well. 

So do other teams, however. 

How are the two wild card teams determined?

The two wild card teams are defined by the NBA as “the team from each conference with the best record in Group Play games that finished second in its group”. Simply put, this means that even if they do not win their group, teams still have a chance to move on. 

Beyond that, it gets a little more complicated, as tiebreakers might enter the game. If there are several teams in a conference that finish second in their group and have the same record, which is not at all unlikely, a sequence of tiebreakers is triggered. 

Tiebreakers will be decided in the following order:

  1. Head-to-head record in the Group Stage
  2. Point differential in the Group Stage
  3. Total points scored in the Group Stage
  4. Regular-season record from last season
  5. Random drawing (if teams still happen to be tied after all this) 

What does this mean for the Kings?

The Kings are in one of the better positions to move on to the next stage, sitting on top of their group with a 3-0 record. Tonight they still have to face the Warriors, however, while the Timberwolves take on the Thunder. Both Minnesota and Golden State could still move on as well. 

If the Kings win, all is well. They stay undefeated and move on. If they lose, it gets a little bit tricky, especially if the Timberwolves win. That way, there will be a three-way tie between the Kings, the Warriors, and the Timberwolves that will be decided as described above to find the group winner. 

The Kings definitely move on if they beat the Warriors or if the Timberwolves win and the Kings win the tiebreaker over both Minnesota and Golden State. 

If neither of these scenarios occurs, the Kings will not move on to the Knockout Rounds. They are already out of Wild Card contention because the 3-1 Phoenix Suns would win the point differential tiebreaker. 

So, Kings fans should definitely be rooting for a win tonight while also silently rooting for the Timberwolves to beat the Thunder. 

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To take a look at all possible scenarios for all teams, click here.