Anthony Davis And The Lakers Put On A Show In The In-Season Tournament Championship

LAS VEGAS — From the start of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament, the Los Angeles Lakers operated as the league’s most dominant team. In the first six games of the event, the Lakers out-scored opponents by more than 20 points per 100 possessions, winning all six games and utterly dominating the New Orleans Pelicans to reach Saturday’s championship matchup against the Indiana Pacers. While Saturday’s game was much more competitive, the Lakers were able to finish the drill, pulling away in the fourth quarter and riding elite contributions from Anthony Davis and LeBron James to the NBA Cup victory.

In the early going, it was clear the Lakers had a game plan targeted on defending Tyrese Haliburton. Los Angeles crowded the red-hot Indiana guard with multiple bodies and length, forcing two early turnovers for Haliburton.

On the other end, Los Angeles was dead-set on putting pressure on the rim. The Lakers had 24 points in the paint in the first nine minutes, and Davis was a major factor. He made his first six shots, notching 12 points and four rebounds in those nine minutes.

Los Angeles led by five points at the end of the first quarter, with James asserting himself in the second. He scored eight quick points, using his immense physicality for bully ball against Indiana’s interior resistance.

However, the rest of the half was a bit of a slog, largely due to a tight whistle. 28 fouls were called in the first half, including 16 in the first quarter, and James picked up his third foul before halftime, forcing him to the bench. ESPN’s Mike Breen reported on the television broadcast that it was the first time James had three fouls in the first half since 2021, and that was a microcosm of the half. The Lakers also allowed 22 free throw attempts in the half, which was exceedingly notable given that Los Angeles leads the league in free throw prevention, yielding fewer than 19 attempts per game.

Still, Los Angeles took a five-point edge into halftime. The Lakers scored a whopping 52 points in the paint in the first half, and Austin Reaves finished with 22 points, earning a new career-best mark in any single half.

The Lakers began the second half on a high note, rattling off a 9-3 run to push their lead to double figures. The run was punctuated by a dunk from Davis, with Los Angeles seemingly in firm control.

Indiana counter-punched at times in the third quarter, with Haliburton finding some footing going to the rim with straight-line drives. The margin remained in a similar range as a result, though the Lakers continued to be in a favorable position. After Los Angeles missed its first 10 three-pointers, Taurean Prince connected on a triple with 1:11 to go in the third, and the Lakers went up by 11 points in the final minute of the period. However, Indiana flipped things a bit at the buzzer, connecting on a three-pointer to take advantage of an uncharacteristic turnover from James on the previous play.

The Pacers built from that triple and opened the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run. That brought Indiana within a three-point margin for the first time in the second half and prompted a Lakers timeout to stop the bleeding.

Indiana trailed by only four points with seven minutes to go, but the Lakers slowly began to extend the margin. Davis was dominant on both ends, as he was throughout the night, and the Lakers also received important supporting contributions from Cam Reddish. Injust over three minutes of clock time, Los Angeles zoomed to a 12-0 run to take its largest lead of the night at 115-99, and that spurt all but sealed the final result.

Ultimately, the Pacers were not able to pull off the miracle comeback in the final minutes, and the Lakers completed a wildly impressive run through the bracket. James was certainly the story of the event, pitching the equivalent of a perfect game in the semifinal and clearly setting his mind on securing the NBA Cup from the beginning of the process. He finished the night with 24 points and 11 rebounds, consistently keeping pressure on the Pacers and lifting the team in subtle ways as he has done over the course of a legendary career.

With that said, the individual story of the championship game was Davis. The eight-time All-Star big man was the best player on the floor, finishing with 41 points on 16-of-24 shooting to go along with 20 rebounds and five assists. Davis also added four blocked shots and, to put it plainly, he was a commanding defensive presence from wire-to-wire. It was a transcendent two-way performance and also a keen reminder that, when healthy and fully engaged, few players are capable of more impactful play than Davis.

The Lakers did benefit from strong efforts from Reaves (28 points) and others but, fittingly, James and Davis stood above the rest on the way to the title. James set the tone for Los Angeles throughout the event, performing at a level virtually unthinkable for a soon-to-be 39-year-old in any universe. Davis took it from there in the final and, in what capped a successful event for the league, one of the NBA’s flagship franchises added a piece of hardware to the trophy case.

×