So What Happens?
A knockout run isn’t guaranteed for LA. Health has always been an important factor when talking about the Clippers, and the Pelicans could pose a larger threat to them in a game both teams would really want to win. However, they should be considered one of the favorites.
While the NBA hasn’t announced how the knockout bracket will look, the two Group A winners will likely face each other, the Group B winners will face each other, and the Group C teams will face each other, pitting the two wild card teams against one another.
For the East, that team will likely be the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, or Brooklyn Nets. Against all three of those teams, the Clippers went a combined 4-2 last season, faring the best against the Knicks, who they swept 2-0. They split the series against New York and Cleveland, going 1-1 in both instances. In a high-pressure game with no injuries, the Clippers could easily come out of the wild card round of the tournament.
If that happens, they’ll face either the winner of the Group A, B, or C games, where their run would likely stop. Still, going that deep into the tournament would put them in a semi-final game, which will be played in Las Vegas.
So what does all this mean? Well, to start with, it could serve as a morale boost for the team, propelling them forward into the long stretch from December to the All-Star Break with a little more competitive fire. More substantially, going that deep in the tournament would give the Clippers four regular season wins, all of which will be added to their overall record.
The in-season tournament, in terms of the impact it will have on the postseason or NBA Finals, is ultimately fairly meaningless. The winning teams don’t win a substantial amount of money as far as the NBA goes, and while there are league honors involved, everyone will still be focused on the tournament taking place in the spring.
However, with all that, it does serve an important role for the middle-of-the-pack teams like LA. It could give them an early competitive spark, and it’s possible that a few key wins in the in-season tournament could push a team like the Clippers to perform better in the regular season than they might without it. That’s what the teams, ultimately, are playing for.