Led by the "King" LeBron James and a great Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers lifted the first-ever NBA Cup on Saturday in Las Vegas, thanks to their victory in the finals over the Indiana Pacers (123-109).
Already a four-time NBA champion (2012, 2013, 2016 and 2020), four-time regular season MVP, Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012, LeBron James has added to his immense list of achievements at nearly 39 years old (he will turn 30 on December 21). In his <>st NBA season, the basketball superstar has been essential to his team from start to finish in this new tournament, created to energize the long regular season.
He thus lifted a new trophy with his Lakers, after the NBA title acquired in the Covid bubble of Orlando in 2020. The "King" was obviously named MVP of the tournament.
LeBron tonight 24 PTS / 11 REB / 2 STL
LeBron in the In-Season Tournament
26.4 PPG 7.9 RPG 7.6 APG 56.8 FG
MVP. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/PvF8mJgcsI
— NBA France (@NBAFRANCE) December 10, 2023
On Saturday in Las Vegas, on a bright red and blue floor, under the eyes of some stars such as French-American actor Timothée Chalamet, James compiled 24 points and 11 rebounds. The final, played against the young and electric Indiana Pacers of point guard Tyrese Haliburton, was disappointing, marred by fouls and blunders on both sides, after the NBA Cup had offered magnificent matches in recent days.
"Every game in this NBA Cup has made us grow"
In a T-Mobile Arena totally won over to their cause, the Lakers nevertheless managed a superb defensive performance, against the best offense in the league. "I liked the way we played on Thursday in the semi-final and then tonight. Our defensive intensity has allowed us to win some high-level games in recent weeks. Every game in this NBA Cup has made us grow," James said after the game, before dipping his feet and calves into an ice bath in a festive locker room.
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His teammates stifled point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who was constantly pressed and harassed by yellow and purple jerseys. Haliburton was coming off two sublime performances in the quarters and semis against Boston and Milwaukee, the two leaders of the Eastern Conference. On Saturday, with 20 points and 11 assists, he seemed to be caught up in the pressure of a final, the young (23 years old) leader of an inexperienced team that did not even qualify for the last playoffs.
"We're disgusted, frustrated. We were dominated from start to finish. We didn't get the job done on rebounding, on turnovers, defensive stops," he said. The Lakers set the pace of the game, playing on their strength in the low post with their pivot Anthony Davis, who was imperious with 41 points and 20 rebounds.
And now a franchise in Las Vegas?
"It's important for me to have helped my team. I know that I am the defensive pillar, that I allow others to press opponents. If they ever get passed, I wait under the rim to hinder or block shots. That's my job, we were perfect defensively," praised the pivot with the famous unibrow.
In addition to pleasing boss LeBron James and pocketing $500,000 (about 464,000 euros) each, the Lakers made their mark in a cutaway game and finished undefeated in the competition (7 wins). Enough to look forward to the future playoffs with a little more serenity, after being beaten in the Western Conference finals in the spring by Denver.
41 POINTS ON 67%
SHOOTING20 REBOUNDS 5 ASSISTS
Anthony Davis 🔥🔥🔥 #NBAInSeasonTournament pic.twitter.com/ZaXOvFIWwX
— NBA France (@NBAFRANCE) December 10, 2023
"You have to remember that it's only December. We're happy with what we're capable of today, but we have to keep improving, and stay healthy," said James, whose team suffered multiple injuries at the start of the season.
The NBA offered this competition for the first time, the final-4 of which was played on neutral ground in Las Vegas on Thursday (semis) and Saturday. All games, except the final, counted towards the regular season. In the city of gambling for three days, LeBron James was able to confirm his desire to found an NBA franchise there once his career is over. "They already have everything: a women's franchise, a baseball team soon, American football, Formula 1 was here the week of Thanksgiving. It's a city that loves big events, the NBA would be a real plus," said the four-time MVP.