Las Vegas, NV – There were a lot of skeptics, including myself, but the inaugural NBA In Season Tournament has been an overwhelming success.
There are definitely some things that need to be changed with it but for the most part, they sold the players, teams, media, and fans on the tournament and it will only get better from here. The games truly feel like it’s a playoff atmosphere with heightened intensity and that’s something that we weren’t getting for regular November and December games.
It all comes to an end this weekend in Vegas!
The second semifinal game featured the Lakers and Pelicans and this is one that was highly anticipated.
We have Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram going against their former teams, LeBron James going against his former teammate in Ingram, then theres the matchup between Zion and AD. Anytime these two teams meet up it’s easy to tell that they don’t want to lose to each other. The elevated intensity is definitely noticeable.
It wasn’t any different in Vegas.
The Lakers came out hot with a lot of energy but once the Pelicans settled in, it became a very entertaining opening quarter. The Pelicans did a great job of getting into the paint and playing inside out to get some easy looks. They also did a great job on the offensive glass. The Lakers on the other hand did a great job of having great player and balll movement to get Pelican defenders lost so they could get some easy looks. As expected, both teams blitzed the other team’s stars and made the others have to step up and neither team’s others disappointed.
clear the runway Herb ✈️ pic.twitter.com/MZiCyjfWsA
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) December 8, 2023
Then LeBron James happened.
One of the main keys for this game was going to be the Lakers trying to build a lead when BI was on the bench and the Pelicans trying to build a lead with AD on the bench. With both of those guys on the bench, LeBron saw an opportunity and he ran with it. Coming out of the first and hitting three straight threes to give the Lakers a quick run and he didn’t stop there. He was in complete control of the game accounting for 24 of the Lakers 38 second quarter points including 18 points himself on 6-8. It was like he thought he was playing the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007.
Behind LeBron’s strong play in the quarter, the Lakers were able to take a 67-54 lead into halftime and the Pelicans would need to adjust big times.
This duo >>> pic.twitter.com/tjc7P5nUBT
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 8, 2023
A couple of the adjustments they needed to make were communicating better and getting their stars better looks. There were too many times where they lost the Lakers and it resulted in some easy looks for them so better communication was going to be key and on the offensive end, they needed to figure out how to open things up more for Zion and BI. Every time they drove into the paint they saw three defenders and they couldn’t find a way to get any good looks.
Neither of those things changed after halftime.
Actually, they got worse.
The Pelicans didn’t have any type of energy or effort in the third quarter and the Lakers took full advantage. They didn’t settle, they didn’t try to get too cute, and they just kept things very simple building their lead to as much as 41. It was a pretty ugly performance in the third for the Pelicans and it started with BI and Zion.
Neither one looked too interested on either end of the floor and that just trickled down. When your stars don’t show up in the effort category it tends to be a very ugly night and the it was for the Pelicans. It wasn’t really anything special the Lakers did because they got a lot of open shots. Simply put, the Pelicans didn’t show up.
The Lakers ended up winning the game 133-89 and it wasn’t really as close as the score seems.
They were led by LeBron James who had 30 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds while Anthony Davis had 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. Austin Reaves was great off the bench with 17 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. They also got good showings from Taurean Prince who had 15 points, D’Angelo Russell who had 14 points, and Rui Hachimura who had 12 points.
The Lakers will take on the Pacers on Saturday for a chance to win the first In Season Tournament Championship and NBA Cup.