The Sixers are currently 2-1 in group play while the Indiana Pacers are 2-0 and those same Pacers own the tiebreaker due to their win over the Sixers on Nov. 14. Therefore, if the Sixers want to have a chance at advancing, they need to beat the Cavs on Tuesday and then hope for Indiana to drop their final group games against the Atlanta Hawks and the Detroit Pistons.
One would never use the term “must win” in November, but due to the nature of the in-season tournament, that has changed a bit for the Sixers.
“Well, the last one in Atlanta was like that, too really, right?” said coach Nick Nurse. “These both turned into—with the loss to Indiana and them having a perfect record—those were both certainly knockout games. We’re in another one tomorrow.”
This can be something of an early test for Nurse’s Sixers. Normally, games of this magnitude don’t come around this early in the season. The Cavs have been playing well as of late as they knocked off the defending champion Denver Nuggets in their previous contest.
“I think it’s a good test, good for us to be in a competitive situation,” Nurse added. “There’s a little bit more on the line than a regular season game and against a very good team that’s playing really well so I’m looking forward to it.”
The nature of the tournament has brought a different feel to the floor for everybody around the NBA. These games are all of a sudden important and Nurse believes the Sixers are feeling the intensity rise.
“It does for sure,” said Nurse. “I think our guys are taking this tournament super seriously. They wanna keep going. They wanna advance. It’s important to them. This game is a must, right? We must get it if we wanna have even a chance to continue in the tournament.”
It’s obvious that the implementation of the in-season tournament for the first time ever has been a success. TV ratings are up, teams are taking the tournament seriously, and the players have really bought in.
“I think it’s been good,” added Patrick Beverley. “Obviously, the competition is raised a ton since they started it. The courts have been great. I like the color of it, but the competition’s been great. It’s given you an early playoff feel. It’s getting to the point where guys are getting a little too energetic. Fights are breaking out and stuff like that, but it’s good for the game of basketball. Guys showing emotion and all that so I’m a big fan of it.”
The Sixers and the Cavs tip off at 7:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday.