NBA In-Season Tournament group play predictions + Miami is heating up


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Hey, this tourney is actually getting good.

In-Season Tournament

Picture is getting clearer

Fridays are for burning your eyes out with these In-Season Tournament courts! And since we’re a few nights into this tournament, let’s take a look at how you can expect things to round out and where I think we’re headed. Of course, make sure you check out John Hollinger’s great breakdown of everything so far.

Remember: The winner of each of the six groups moves into the quarterfinals, along with a wild card from each conference, and point differential in group play matters. The semifinals and finals are Dec. 7 and 9 in Las Vegas.

  • East Group A: Pacers (2-0, +11 point differential), Hawks (1-0, +6), Sixers (1-1, +2), Cavs (0-1, -5), Pistons (0-2, -14)
    Tonight: Pistons at Cavs and Sixers at Hawks. Must-win for the Pistons, Cavs and Sixers.
    Prediction: Indiana wins the group easily.
  • East Group B: Heat (2-0, +13), Bucks (1-0, +5), Hornets (1-1, +1), Knicks (0-1, -5), Wizards (0-2, -14)
    Tonight: Knicks at Wizards and Bucks at Hornets. Must-win for both the Hornets and Wizards.
    Prediction: Heat win the group on the last day of group play by beating Milwaukee.
  • East Group C: Celtics (1-0, +14), Nets (2-1,  +8), Bulls (0-1, -2), Magic (0-1, -20), Raptors (0-0)
    Tonight: Celtics at Raptors and Magic at Bulls. The Magic have to win and probably win big to fix their differential. Welcome to group play, Toronto, the only team that hasn’t played yet.
    Prediction: Can’t see anybody but Boston winning this group.
  • West Group A: Lakers (2-0, +30), Jazz (2-0, +22), Blazers (1-1, -14), Suns (0-1, -3), Grizzlies (0-3, -35)
    Tonight: Lakers at Blazers and Suns at Jazz. The Blazers and Suns have to win to stay alive in group play.
    Prediction: The Jazz win the group, and the Lakers take the wild card.
  • West Group B: Nuggets (2-0, +14), Rockets (1-0, +3), Pelicans (1-1, +18), Mavs (1-2, -14), Clippers (0-2, -21)
    Tonight: Nuggets at Pelicans and Rockets at Clippers. The Pelicans winning would put pressure on Denver big time. The Clippers are all but done.
    Prediction: Denver is definitely taking this group.
  • West Group C: Wolves (2-0, +10), Kings (1-0, +7), Warriors (1-1, -1), Thunder (1-2, +27), Spurs (0-2, -43)
    Tonight: Kings at Spurs. The Spurs would have to win by 70 just to have a chance to advance, and it’s still unlikely even if that happens.
    Prediction: Kings win the group. The Thunder spoils the Wolves’ chances.

Haliburton is Hoopin’

We’ve never seen this before

Pacers All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton had a historic set of games this past week, both against Philadelphia. He had 25 points, 17 assists and zero turnovers during a loss Sunday and followed that up with 33 points, 15 assists and zero turnovers Wednesday in a win.

That’s never been done. Haliburton is the first player since turnovers started being tracked in 1977-78 to record consecutive games of 25 points, 15 assists and zero turnovers. In related news, the Pacers (7-4) have the best offense in the NBA.

Haliburton is creating 33.6 points per game with his assists, which is seven points more than second-place Trae Young. The Pacers score 126.8 points per 100 possessions when Haliburton is on the floor. To put that into context, the Kings’ offensive rating of 118.6 last season was the best in league history. The Pacers drop down to 110.1 points per 100 possessions when Haliburton is on the bench.

Everything he’s doing to start this season is historic.

Heating Up

Miami is here to annoy you

Since LeBron James went back to Cleveland, people predicting how the season will go have looked at Miami’s roster and thought, “Nah, not good enough.” Three of the past four years, that’s been an egregious mistake.

It happened again before this season. Miami started slow at 1-4 and looked a lot like the same Heat team that limped through the regular season, made the Play-In Tournament and was 12 minutes from being ousted last season. That team also made the NBA Finals, and many assumed it was a fluke of some sort.

After that poor start, the Heat (8-4) haven’t lost. Their 122-115 win over Brooklyn last night marked their seventh straight win. To be fair, six of their eight wins have been against bad teams. And you can determine how impressed you were with their wins over the Lakers and Nets. But the Heat look like they’re here to disrupt your predictions once again. Miami is the hottest team in basketball and near the top of the East. Just like everybody expected after they missed out on Damian Lillard, right?

There are reasons to remain positive about them despite the easy schedule during the streak:

  • Tyler Herro got hurt nine days ago and was playing really well. They’ll get him back.
  • Jimmy Butler was off to a slow start, but his 18-point third quarter against Brooklyn fueled a 36-point effort.
  • They just got Caleb Martin back.
  • Kyle Lowry has given them very little.
  • Bam Adebayo is playing his best basketball.
  • Rookie Jaime Jacquez Jr. has been fantastic.
  • Duncan Robinson is dribbling a lot, and it’s actually good.
  • They still have Erik Spoelstra.

Yes, their Culture court is an abomination, and they don’t seem like they should be contenders. But that’s how they get you.

Bounce Passes

This Luka-led offense is especially explosive this year.

The best and the worst of this young NBA season so far.

Rookie Jordan Hawkins is on a quest down in New Orleans.

This timeline of Draymond Green suspensions explains all of the antics.

Screen Game (All Times Eastern)

  • Main Screen: Sixers-Hawks (7:30 p.m.). We could see Tyrese Maxey and Trae Young both go for 40.
  • Second Screen: Nuggets-Pelicans (8 p.m.). Nikola Jokić versus Zion Williamson should be fun, but it could get ugly.
  • League Pass Game of the Night: Rockets-Clippers (10:30 p.m.). The Clippers can’t win. The Rockets can’t lose. Will anything change here? Full schedule here.

(Photo of Jimmy Butler and Day’Ron Sharpe: Jim Rassol / USA Today)

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