Boston Celtics

NBA in-season tournament: How Celtics can advance to quarterfinals

Here are the latest in-season tournament scenarios for Boston.

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The Boston Celtics suffered their first-ever defeat in the NBA's in-season tournament on Friday, falling 113-96 to the Orlando Magic at Amway Center.

This result moved the Magic to the top of Group C with a 3-1 record, while the Celtics are in a second-place tie with the Brooklyn Nets at 2-1. Boston owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Brooklyn.

The Celtics still have a chance to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.

The Magic are done with their in-season tournament group play. So if the Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls in their final group game -- Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Boston -- they can tie the Magic atop the group standings. However, if only the Celtics and Magic are 3-1 at the end of group play, the C's would finish second based on the Magic having the head-to-head tiebreaker. If the Magic, Celtics and Nets all finish at 3-1, then the tiebreaker would be point differential.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, they are not in a good position in point differential. The Magic lead Group C with a plus-22 point differential, followed by the Nets at plus-8 and the Celtics at zero.

Here's what needs to happen for Boston to win Group C:

  • Nets beat Raptors
  • Celtics beat Bulls by 23 points or more
  • Celtics beat Bulls by at least nine points more than Nets beat Raptors

If the Celtics do not finish first in the group, they can still get into the quarterfinals as the wild card team. The wild card in each conference is the team with the best record that finishes second in its group. If there are two or more teams tied for the wild card, the tiebreaker is head-to-head, followed by point differential and then total points scored.

As of Tuesday morning, four teams with 2-1 records in Group Play are ahead of the Celtics in the wild card standings based on a better point differential:

  • New York Knicks (+18)
  • Miami Heat (+11)
  • Brooklyn Nets (+8)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (+6)

Here's what needs to happen for Boston to advance as a wild card team:

  • Celtics beat Bulls, Hornets beat Knicks, Bucks beat Heat, Raptors beat Nets, and Hawks beat Cavs OR
  • Celtics beat Bulls and overtake other 3-1 teams in East based on point differential

Long story short, the best way for the Celtics to reach the quarterfinals is to beat the Bulls by as many points as possible. The Knicks have an 18-point advantage over Boston in point differential, so the most realistic path for the Celtics to advance as a wild card team would be if the Knicks and Heat both lose and Boston overtakes the Nets and Cavs in point differential.

The quarterfinals of the in-season tournament are set for Dec. 4 and Dec. 5. The semifinals are scheduled for Dec. 7 and the championship game is set for Dec. 9. Both the semifinals and final will be played in Las Vegas.

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