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Lakers cash in on inaugural in-season tournament with 123-109 win over Pacers to hoist first-ever NBA Cup trophy

Luck, be a lady tonight.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 65 points, as the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament 123-109 over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

“When we’re on the floor together and we’re healthy we know what we’re capable of doing,” James said of his partnership with Davis.

In a game that didn’t even count in the standings, it was the Lakers that cashed in their chips, winning the first-ever NBA Cup trophy, a half-a-million per player prize, and bragging rights as the first in-season tournament champion in history.

The matchup featured an unstoppable force colliding with an immovable object, as both teams entered the NBA In-Season Tournament Final with a perfect record of 6-0.

The Lakers swept through the In-Season Tournament with a perfect 7-0 record. They easily won their group, held on to beat Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns in the quarterfinals, dominated the New Orleans Pelicans in the semifinals, and dispatched of Tyrese Haliburton and the pesky Pacers in the Final.

The surprising Pacers defeated a gauntlet of Eastern Conference foes to reach the final, besting the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks before coming up short against the Lakers.

Davis dominated for the purple and gold, scoring 41 points, with 20 rebounds, six assists, and four blocks. James, in-and-out of foul trouble all night, finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers: Championship - 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament
Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a basket against the Indiana Pacers during the fourth quarter in the championship game of the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament at T-Mobile Arena on December 09, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

James was named the In-Season Tournament’s MVP.

Fresh off his first All-Star appearance earlier this year, and a sensational start through the first quarter of the season, Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton led Indiana with 20 points and 11 assists.

Los Angeles led 34-29 after the first quarter, but with LeBron James in foul trouble the Pacers kept in close. The Lakers were unable to extend their lead and by halftime were up 65-60.

James had just 12 points and three fouls at the break, but was picked up by Austin Reaves, who scored a career-high 22 points off the bench in the first half, while simultaneously battling flu-like symptoms.

“It means a lot what he’s been doing this entire season,” said Davis of Reaves. “It takes a lot of pressure off of us. He means a lot to our organization and our team. There’s nothing he can’t do.”

The Pacers cut the lead to just five points with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter, but James quickly entered off the bench and led the Lakers on a quick 6-0 run, punctuated by an alley-oop pass to Davis that put them back up 11.

But in the end, the Lakers simply wanted it more.

Los Angeles ratcheted up the defense in the fourth quarter, and the dynamic duo of James and Davis took over down the stretch.

The Lakers dominated the paint. Out-scoring the Pacers 86-44 in the post.

“We wanted to impose our will on the game and control the paint on both sides of the ball and he’s the guy to do that,” Lakers’ head coach Darvin Ham said of Davis. “He’s our anchor.”

Indiana, the NBA’s fastest and most efficient offense in the league was neutralized on the fast break. The Lakers actually out-scored them in that category 21-18.

The inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament was the creation of commissioner Adam Silver. Comparing it to in-season tournaments that have become commonplace in soccer leagues throughout Europe, Silver wanted something to ignite the normally slow November and December of the NBA season.

Despite the crazy courts, new uniforms, and quirky scheduling, the tournament overall was a resounding success.

LeBron and the Lakers will now head back to Los Angeles with half-a-million dollars in their pocket, a championship medal around their neck, and the inaugural NBA Cup trophy.

James is expected to attend USC basketball’s game against Long Beach State at the Galen Center on Sunday, where his son Bronny is expected to make his collegiate debut.

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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