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The In-Season Tournament: What to Know About the NBA’s Sin City Spectacle

Get set for the Las Vegas portion of the NBA’s In-Season Tournament. Here’s who’s playing, how to watch, and all the new broadcast features you can expect.

Following four exciting quarterfinal matches this week, the NBA‘s In-Season Tournament heads to Las Vegas for the semifinals and finals on Thursday and Saturday. The winning team will earn the NBA Cup and, oh, by the way, $500,000 for each player.

The group stage brought intense action, special courts, and new uniforms for all 30 franchises. Teams divided into six groups of five, split evenly by Eastern and Western Conference. Each team played four games apiece, with group winners and one wild card from each conference advancing to the knockout stage. All In-Season Tournament games until the final will count toward the 82-game regular season standings.

The average league-wide November attendance of 18,208 was the highest in NBA history and TV ratings for nationally televised games rose 26% year over year, so it’s safe to say the fans have bought into the newfound excitement of the season’s early months. With the semifinals tipping off Thursday, here’s everything you need to know about the championship portion of the IST.

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The Matchups

The first semifinal will feature the Indiana Pacers taking on the Milwaukee Bucks. Indiana got a triple-double from rising superstar Tyrese Haliburton in a home upset of the Boston Celtics in the quarterfinals, while Milwaukee put up 146 points in blowing out New York — the most points the Knicks have allowed in a regular season game since 1979.

In the second semifinal, the New Orleans Pelicans will take on the Los Angeles Lakers. New Orleans got 30 points from Brandon Ingram in a 10-point win at Sacramento, while LeBron James put up 31 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds in a narrow victory over Phoenix to reach Las Vegas.

How to Watch the In-Season Tournament

Indiana and Milwaukee will play at 5 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN, and New Orleans vs. Los Angeles will follow at 9 ET on TNT from Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. The winners will play each other Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC, with the winner taking home the first-ever NBA Cup.

Broadcast Features

ESPN and TNT will collaborate on coverage for Thursday’s semifinal doubleheader for both in-game and studio telecasts. TNT’s Inside the NBA crew of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal will join ESPN’s NBA Countdown pregame show before the first semifinal game. The Countdown crew of Malika Andrews, Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon, Bob Myers, and Adrian Wojnarowski will join Inside The NBA‘s pregame show prior to the second semifinal.

For the games, Reggie Miller will be a special guest analyst along with Mike Breen, Doris Burke, and Lisa Salters for Indiana-Milwaukee on ESPN. Doc Rivers will be a special guest analyst along with Kevin Harlan, Candace Parker, and Allie LaForce for New Orleans-Los Angeles on ESPN.

For Saturday’s championship match, ESPN, Hartbeat, and Omaha Productions will produce and launch an alternative broadcast on ESPN2 starring comedian Kevin Hart. NBA Unplugged with Kevin Hart will feature Hart and the Plastic Cup Boyz, Joey Wells, Will Horton, and Na’im Lynn and include famous guests throughout the broadcasts. There will be seven episodes of NBA Unplugged during marquee matchups throughout the season.

Matchups & Storylines

If you like offense, you’ll love the first matchup. Both Indiana and Milwaukee are in the top three in points per game and are in the top five in pace or possessions per 48 minutes. Haliburton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, and the rest of the players in this game will be off to the races with guaranteed high-flying action.

The second game will feature Anthony Davis taking on his former New Orleans team, with Ingram starring as the main piece sent from the Lakers in 2019. Will LeBron add to his incredible career resume with the first NBA Cup MVP?

The finals could see the rise of the next generation of superstars like Haliburton and Zion Williamson compete for the Cup or generational icons like James, Giannis, and AD looking to cement their respective legacies further.

NBA In-Season Tournament Odds

Per FanDuel SportsBook, here are the current odds for the IST winner:

Milwaukee Bucks: +165
Los Angeles Lakers: +230
New Orleans Pelicans: +380
Indiana Pacers: +440

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