LAS VEGAS – Fueled by Anthony Davis’ stellar play and desire to make history, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the upstart Indiana Pacers 123-109 on Dec. 9 to win the first edition of the National Basketball Association 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’s trophy case.
On the pair, Lakers coach Darwin Ham said: “They’re a tremendous one-two punch. It could be one or two of them on any given night.
For James, the league’s all-time leading scorer, it was a brand new honor in the 21st season of a career that includes four NBA titles and four NBA Most Valuable Player awards.
The 38-year-old got the nod as the MVP of the tournament.
“We made history,” James said as he celebrated with his teammates on the court. “Whenever you’re on the right side of history, you own it.
“The Los Angeles Lakers’ first tournament of the season.”
Led by Davis and James, the Lakers overwhelmed the Pacers, never allowing them to fully activate their high-octane offense.
They outscored the Pacers 86-44 in the paint and were better on the boards 55-32.
“We wanted to be the first one to win it,” Davis said. “We know it’s not the real thing, but we keep taking steps in the right direction.
“Whoever does it first, we’ll take it.”
The Lakers completed an undefeated campaign throughout the tournament, which began with all 30 NBA teams divided into six groups for round-robin play.
All games except the Finals count towards the regular-season standings, and James said the Lakers’ performance during the event added intensity to a lackluster part of a long NBA season, which will only help them when the time comes. Play-off push.
“I think every moment we grew,” James said. “In-season tournaments, 7-0, it’s high-intensity games and we just evolved.
“I think people have felt a lot more comfortable in their roles. We have a very good understanding of rotation. You know who you’re going to play and you know what you guys want to do on the field.”