The NBA Cup’s first champion will be decided as the Lakers battle the Pacers. The Lakers, led by Lebron James, have easily torn through the Western Conference side of this tournament. The Pacers have played the better competition to get to this point, and while the Lakers are the more experienced team, the Pacers are a dangerous team full of energy, and when they are on, they can score many points quickly.
Los Angeles was dominant against New Orleans on Thursday night in their semifinal matchup, coasting into the championship game undeterred with an emphatic victory. Entering Friday, they were 14-9 on the season, holding one-game leads over the Suns and Kings for first place in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles trailed New Orleans after one quarter, leading by two with 3:08 remaining before going on an incredible 14-3 run to take an 11-point advantage into halftime. Los Angeles broke the game wide open with a 43-17 third-quarter lead to extend their advantage, then cruised home. Los Angeles shot 54.7% from the field – including 17 of 35 from three-point range – and held on to their glass advantage 59-42 during this contest. LeBron James led with 30 points, five rebounds, and eight assists for Los Angeles during this triumphant win.
Los Angeles ranks 16th in scoring offense, as they average 113.1 points per contest, 10th in rebounding (44.8 boards per contest), and 12th in assists (26.3 per game). Los Angeles stands 13th overall in scoring defense, permitting 112 points each night. LeBron James leads his team this season with 25 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per contest. Anthony Davis contributes 22.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks a night while D’Angelo Russell adds 16.6 points per game with 3.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists per matchup. Austin Reaves (14.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists) and Rui Hachimura (11.4 points) each average in double figures for coach Darvin Ham. Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish Christian Wood Gabe Vincent Max Christie Jaxson Hayes are expected to contribute for Darvin Ham. Los Angeles ranks sixth in field goal percentage with 48.4% from the floor as a team and ranks 30th with 10.2 triples per game while also sitting 27th in three-point shooting with 343 attempts (34% from three-point range).
Indiana earned their ticket to the championship game with a victory against Milwaukee in Thursday afternoon’s semifinals, beating them for an overall record of 12-8 in the Central Division, two games behind Milwaukee for first place. Indiana trailed Milwaukee after the first quarter, took an eight-point advantage into halftime, but were outscored 43-28 in the third period to enter the fourth period trailing by three. The Indiana Pacers took control for good at 107-106 on a Bruce Brown jumper with 6:15 left in regulation and pulled away to earn an upset victory. Indiana shot 49% from the field (including seven of 33 three-point attempts) and held a 51-46 edge on boards during this game; Tyrese Haliburton led Indiana with 27 points, seven rebounds, and 15 assists to lead them all.
Indiana leads the league in scoring offense with 128.4 points per game this season. Indiana ranks 29th in rebounding with an average of 40.1 boards a night while leading in assists by dispensing 30.2 dimes per contest. Indiana currently ranks 29th in scoring defense, giving up an average of 124.9 points per game this year. Tyrese Haliburton leads Indiana in scoring with 26.9 points plus 12.1 assists per game. Bennedict Mathurin (13 points), Buddy Hield (13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists), Myles Turner (17.1 points, eight rebounds and two blocks), Jalen Smith (10 points and 5.5 rebounds) and Bruce Brown (12.6 points and 4.4 rebounds) have been reliable scorers this season. Aaron Nesmith (11) and Obi Toppin (13 points), Jordan Nwora, T.J. McConnell, Andrew Nembhard and Isaiah Jackson are among Indiana’s rotation members who contribute points. Indiana currently leads the league in field goal percentage at 50.8% from the floor as a team, and it is fourth in threes per game (14.8 triples per contest) while also shooting 38.1% from threes.
Los Angeles has played solid basketball this season, yet they have not encountered an opponent like the Indiana Pacers in this tournament. Indiana can exploit teams offensively, as witnessed during this in-season tournament, with Haliburton easily leading them and taking down both division leaders (Celtics and Bucks). Achieving this feat under pressure was no small task – yet Indiana was unflappable against this Lakers squad even with its pedigree featuring James plus Davis; an experienced Lakers team simply cannot dislodge this Indiana team from their stride. Pacers cover.
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