- Anthony Davis had seasons highs of 41 points and 20 rebounds for the Lakers
- READ MORE: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to ‘check in’ on Memphis’ Morant
Potentially the start of a tradition, or simply a doomed PR stunt, the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament was won easily by LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Outscoring the upstart Indiana Pacers, 123-109, the Lakers gave championship-worthy performance, even if the NBA Finals are still six months away.
Most significantly, players appeared to embrace the new format, although that may have had something to do with the $500,000 in prize money for each player. Maybe that’s a pittance James and Davis, but it’s half the career earnings of Lakers forward Maxwell Lewis.
In fact, half the Lakers roster makes $4 million or less this season.
The was at leas one pointed refence to the the Lakers’ 2020 NBA title, which some minimize because it was won during the chaotic pandemic-shortened season inside the league’s ‘bubble’ in Orlando.
‘If you combine this IST championship with the Lakers bubble championship, that’s almost like one whole championship,’ FanDuel’s Michelle Beadle joked on X.
LeBron James (23) controls the ball against Indiana Pacers forward Bruce Brown
Anthony Davis had seasons highs of 41 points and 20 rebounds for the Lakers, although it was James who came away with tournament MVP.
Austin Reaves added 28 points, James had 24 points and 11 rebounds and D’Angelo Russell added 13 points. Davis was 16 of 24 from the field and also had five assists.
Tyrese Haliburton had 20 points and 11 assists for Indiana, Bennedict Mathurin also scored 20 points and Aaron Nesmith had 15.
This game was the only one in the tournament that doesn’t count in the standings, but there was still plenty on the line. In addition to taking home a trophy, Lakers players on standard two-way contracts each made $500,000 and the Pacers received $200,000 apiece. Players on two-way deals take home half those amounts.
Though the stakes weren’t as high as they would be for a playoff, the tournament and the title game had that kind of atmosphere in front of the pro-Lakers crowd.
It’s also another trophy for James, who has won four NBA championships, and he made no secret of his desire to add the title to his resume.
In the Pacers, the Lakers found an equally energized team led by an emerging star in this league. Haliburton became a familiar face during this tournament, but the Lakers limited his damage on Saturday. With Reddish handling most of the defensive duties on Haliburton, he often passed to a teammate rather than try to force the action.
The Lakers led most of the game, though Indiana kept in striking distance until Los Angeles went on a 15-3 run late in the fourth quarter to turn in a 100-96 lead into a 115-99 advantage.
Among those in attendance were basketball Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Shaquille O’Neal, football Hall of Famers Tim Brown and Shannon Sharpe, former tennis star Steffi Graf, former boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., chef Bobby Flay and rapper Flavor Flav. Members of the two-time champion Las Vegas Aces, including WNBA Finals MVP A’ja Wilson, also watched.