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Lakers Best Pacers in Thrilling NBA In-Season Tournament Championship

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Dec 10, 2023

The Los Angeles Lakers emerged victorious in the first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament championship game, defeating the Indiana Pacers 127-121 in a down-to-the-wire finish. Led by standout performances from Anthony Davis and tournament MVP LeBron James, the Lakers capped their Cinderella run through the tournament in style, overcoming a scrappy Pacers squad buoyed by a raucous home crowd at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Davis was utterly dominant for Los Angeles, pouring in 37 points on 15-of-19 shooting along with 21 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals. James added 28 points and was named MVP after averaging 30.3 points over the Lakers’ four tournament games.

The Lakers entered the eight-team tournament as a No. 7 seed after a disappointing start to their season, but shocked the league by taking down No. 2 seed Milwaukee and No. 3 seed New Orleans en route to the championship game. Their impressive run now nets the franchise $2.25 million in prize money, an achievement that James said shows the team’s potential.

“To be able to put ourselves in position to win another trophy, that’s what it’s all about,” James said during the postgame ceremony. “It’s great and we want more of this feeling.”

Back-and-Forth Battle Goes Down to the Wire

In front of a capacity crowd of basketball-crazed Indiana fans, the Pacers jumped out to an early lead behind the stellar play of point guard Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton, who finished with 26 points and 14 assists, led Indiana to a 40-28 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

“We knew with this atmosphere, we had to come out aggressive and try to punch them in the mouth early,” Haliburton said.

But James and Davis responded emphatically in the second quarter, combining for 22 points to cut the Pacers’ lead to just two points at halftime. The game remained tight from there, with neither team leading by more than six points in a back-and-forth second half that kept fans on the edge of their seats.

Clinging to a slim one-point advantage with two minutes remaining, James knocked down a clutch mid-range jumper followed by a transition dunk to put the Lakers up five. Though Indiana kept battling – getting as close as three points in the final minute – Los Angeles did just enough down the stretch to protect their lead.

As the final buzzer sounded on the Lakers’ hard-fought victory, James leapt atop the scorer’s table in jubilation, flexing to a crowd featuring no shortage of purple-and-gold-clad Los Angeles faithful.

“Our fans showed out big time,” Davis said of the strong Lakers contingent at an ostensible Pacers home game. “To be able to celebrate this moment with them is really special.”

LeBron James Named Tournament MVP

In addition to winning the championship, LeBron James took home MVP honors after a dominant tournament run. He led all scorers with 30.3 points per game over the four contests while putting up 8 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

James scored 40, 35 and 37 points in tough wins over the Bucks, Suns and Pelicans to push Los Angeles to the finals. His 28 points against Indiana brought his overall tournament totals to 121 points, 32 rebounds and 25 assists.

LeBron James In-Season Tournament Stats

Category Total Per Game Average
Points 121 30.3
Rebounds 32 8.0
Assists 25 6.3
Steals 6 1.5

“It’s all about availability – me being available to my teammates and being available to the franchise,” James said regarding his MVP-caliber play. “I put a lot of hard work into making sure I can suit up and perform at this level for as long as possible because I love this game.”

James also made tournament history by becoming the oldest player at 38 years old to win MVP and the first to capture the award on two different teams – having also won the MVP with the 2012-13 Heat.

What This Means for the Lakers Going Forward

The Lakers entered this tournament needing a spark for what, up until now, had been a lackluster 11-15 start to the season. This championship run appears to have provided just that.

Los Angeles played with a renewed defensive intensity throughout the tournament, holding opponents to 44% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers per game. James looked fully healthy after injuries plagued him last season while Davis appeared motivated, playing with aggression on both ends of the court.

“We showed how dominant we can be when me and [Davis] are on the floor,” James said.

Now, with momentum and confidence behind them, the Lakers will look to build on this tournament success to turn around their regular season fortunes. Getting the team fully healthy will be key – they are still missing key contributors like Lonnie Walker IV. But with James and Davis firing on all cylinders, Los Angeles appears well-positioned to start stringing together wins.

No team has ever won both the In-Season Tournament and NBA championship in the same year. But with King James donning the crown and looking as royal as ever, could this be the Lakers’ year to make history?

“The job ain’t finished,” James said after receiving his MVP trophy. “It’s still a marathon we’re embarking on… Another trophy is always welcome and that’s what the ultimate goal is.”

After these Finals, perhaps a historic season is in store in Los Angeles.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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