Anthony Davis, LeBron James power LA Lakers to inaugural NBA Cup crown

Davis recorded 41 points and James scored 24 as the Lakers beat the Indiana Pacers 123-109 to win the NBA Cup.

Dec 9, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) and forward Anthony Davis (3) celebrate after winning the in season tournament championship final against the Indiana Pacers at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Led by Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the LA Lakers outmuscled the Indiana Pacers in the in-season tournament championship final [Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports via AP]

The Los Angeles Lakers, fuelled by a monster game from Anthony Davis, beat the upstart Indiana Pacers 123-109 to win the first edition of the NBA in-season tournament.

Davis scored 41 points and pulled down 20 rebounds while superstar LeBron James added 24 points and 11 rebounds for the 17-time NBA champion Lakers, who added the first NBA Cup to the club trophy case at Las Vegas on Saturday night.

For the league’s all-time leading scorer James, it was a brand new accolade in the 21st season of a career that has included four NBA titles and four NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards.

The 38-year-old got the nod as MVP of the tournament.

“We made history,” James said as he celebrated on court with his teammates. “Anytime you’re on the right side of history, you take it.

“The first in-season tournament belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Led by Davis and James, the Lakers outmuscled the Pacers, never letting them get their high-octane offence to fully fire.

“We wanted to be the first to win this,” Davis said. “We know it’s not the real thing, but we keep taking steps in the right direction.

“The first to do it, we’ll take it.”

The Lakers completed an unbeaten run through the tournament, which started with all 30 NBA teams drawn into six groups for round-robin play.

The Lakers went 7-0 and the Pacers finished 6-1. Each team went 4-0 in group play and posted two knockout-round wins to reach the title game.

“I will remember the togetherness, the pride that they took in what they were accomplishing along the way and the excitement,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said of his team and its journey to the title game.

Each player on Los Angeles earns $500,000, while the players on Indiana will each receive $200,000.

All games, except the final, counted toward the regular-season standings, and James said the Lakers’ performance as the event ramped up the intensity in what can be a lacklustre part of the long NBA season would only help them when the time comes to make a playoff push.

“I think every moment we grew,” James said.

“I feel like guys have felt a lot more comfortable in their roles. We’ve had a pretty good understanding of rotations. You know who you’re going to be playing with and you know what you guys want to do out on the floor.”

Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton was a revelation, but his 20 points and 11 assists weren’t nearly enough against the determined and experienced Lakers.

“We’re sick, frustrated,” Haliburton said. “We just got outplayed tonight from the start of the game to the end of the game. Just didn’t do the job on loose balls, didn’t rebound, didn’t get enough stops when needed. They just outplayed us, and it’s frustrating.”

The Lakers, backed by a partisan crowd at home, led most of the game, but Indiana managed to keep it close until Los Angeles put together a 13-0 scoring run late in the fourth quarter to finally put the game away.

Davis added five assists and four blocked shots – even though he appeared to be hindered by discomfort in the hip or groin after a scramble in the second half.

Now, Davis said, they’ll get back to the more familiar rhythm of the regular season.

“Even though it’s a big performance, it’s another game and we’ve got to continue to get going starting back on Tuesday,” he said.

Source: News Agencies