Can the Knicks make noise in the next round of the in-season tournament?

New York Knicks v Charlotte Hornets
New York Knicks v Charlotte Hornets / David Jensen/GettyImages

Tonight is the final night of group play for the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament, with eight games on the slate. Seven of the 16 teams will be fighting for a wildcard spot (five in the East, two in the West). There’s a lot at stake for all the players and coaches involved, but selfishly, I only care about one thing. Will the New York Knicks advance to the quarterfinals?

The Knicks are coming off a crushing three-point loss to the Phoenix Suns over the weekend but are winners in four of their last six games. They face the 5-10 Charlotte Hornets tonight in their final game of group play.

The Hornets lost five of their last seven games and just lost their best player to injury. Star point guard LaMelo Ball was carried off the court Sunday after injuring his right ankle in a loss to the Orlando Magic. Even with the youngest of the Ball brothers healthy, the Knicks already beat the Hornets by double digits twice this season.

Charlotte isn't the only team standing in the Knicks' way of advancing to the quarter-finals. New York is in a five-way tie with the Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics heading into tonight's games. All five teams have a 2-1 tournament record heading into their final matchup in the group stage. 

NBA In-Season Tournament Tiebreaker Rules

*Head-to-head record in the group stage
*Point Differential in the group stage
*Total Points in the group stage
*Prior Seasons Regular Season record

The Knicks currently own the head-to-head tiebreaker against Miami. They also have the point differential tiebreaker with the Celtics, Cavaliers, and Nets. So, as long as the Knicks do as expected and defeat the Hornets tonight, they should advance to the next round. There’s just one small problem. 

The Heat face the Milwaukee Bucks in their final group stage game. The Bucks were victorious in their first matchup this season, and Miami will be without Tyler Herro this time, but if the Heat prevail and the Knicks defeat the Hornets, things will get a tad chaotic.

In that scenario, we’d be looking at a three-way tie. Milwaukee owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over New York, but Miami would have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Milwaukee and New York over Miami. As things currently stand, the Knicks own the point differential over Miami, and Milwaukee holds it over both teams. The Bucks also own the final two tiebreakers over both teams, while the Knicks and Heat split the last two. 

Ultimately, New York will most likely advance to the next round as long as they handle their business. Still, as a Knicks fan, my default state is pessimistic, and there’s a realistic possibility the Knicks will get eliminated from the In-Season Tournament, even with a victory.