“I know they’re a great offensive ball club and they can score at will,” Davis says. “It’s my job as the anchor of the defense to lead the team on that end of the floor and that’s what I wanted to do.”
He adds: “We wanted to be the first to get this. I mean, like I said, the money is nice. But you see how we’re growing. We were able to go 4-0 in pool play and then we got to Vegas and it was like, ‘We’re here, we might as well go win it all.’”
It’s official: the Lakers have won the first ever NBA Cup, finishing the inaugural competition with a perfect 7-0 record punctuated by tonight’s win over the Pacers. Anthony Davis was the undisputed star of the night, finishing with 41 points, 20 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots in 40 minutes. It’s his fifth career 40-20 game.
Indiana 99-115 Los Angeles; 2.55, fourth quarter
Six more unanswered points for the Lakers, who have opened their biggest lead of the night at 16 points. The first NBA Cup is within their grasp.
Indiana 99-109 Los Angeles; 4.09, fourth quarter
Another four-point burst by Davis and he’s up to 33 points on the night, restoring the lead to double digits. Meanwhile, Myles Turner has just picked up his sixth personal and fouls out with 10 points and seven rebounds. Lakers in control here.
Indiana 99-105 Los Angeles; 5.25, fourth quarter
What a battle! Anthony Davis (29 points, 18 rebounds, four blocks) is leading the way starting with his formidable defense. But the up-tempo Indiana attack has been in full flow over the past few minutes before this hostile crowd. After a Myles Turner three cuts it to 102-99, the Lakers’ Cam Reddish restores it to six with an ice-cold corner three. Do the Pacers have another push in them?
Indiana 94-98 Los Angeles; 8.23, fourth quarter
The Lakers stop the bleeding with consecutive twos by D’Angelo Russell, followed by a LeBron lay-up in transition that widens the lead to 98-91. But just when it seems like LA are ready to blow it wide open, it’s McConnell who comes down with an offensive rebound in heavy traffic before kicking it out to Haliburton, who coolly drains a three-pointer from the elbow to cut it to four.
Indiana 89-92 Los Angeles; 10.30, fourth quarter
There’s no quit in these Pacers! They open the final period with seven uninterrupted points: a Mathurin driving lay-up off a TJ McConnell assist, an Obi Toppin three-pointer, then another Mathurin driving finger roll off another McConnell dime. Game on!
The Lakers close the quarter in style, rattling off six quick points on a Davis free throw, a Taurean Prince three and a highlight-reel LeBron-to-Davis alley-oop that makes it 90-79, matching Los Angeles’ biggest lead of the night. But from there Mathurin is able to drain a 26-footer with 0.1 seconds left on the clock that cuts it to eight.
Indiana 79-84 Los Angeles; 2.02, third quarter
A stretch of sloppy play by the Lakers, including an inexplicable backcourt violation off a careless backpass by Max Christie, allows the Pacers to get within five on consecutive baskets by Haliburton, who’s finally been able to break free on the offensive end.
Indiana 71-80 Los Angeles; 3.54, third quarter
The Pacers have the ball down seven with a chance to cut it to two possessions. But Mathurin misses a pull-up three from the top of the key and Davis scores on a transition lay-up seconds later. Davis has a game-high 24 points on 11-of-17 from the floor. He’s combined with LeBron for 54 points and every one of those has been in the point, where the Lakers hold a 62-28 advantage overall against the Pacers.
Indiana 69-77 Los Angeles; 6.01, third quarter
Haliburton scores his first points to the half on a driving lay-up, cutting the margin to eight and prompting a Lakers timeout.
Indiana 67-74 Los Angeles; 7.55, third quarter
An ugly stretch of play with lots of stops and starts continues as Reddish heads to the bench with his fourth foul. Moments earlier Davis appeared to be headed to the bench with an injury after holding up play under the Indiana basket, but replay confirmed he was merely hit in the groin.
Indiana 63-72 Los Angeles; 9.44, third quarter
Myles Turner picks up his fourth personal foul on a loose ball. Then four seconds later, Davis throws down a dunk off a LeBron assist to open an 11-point advantage, the Lakers’ largest lead of the game. Carlisle immediately calls for a timeout.
Indiana 60-70 Los Angeles; 10.43, third quarter
Los Angeles sprint from the gate with a LeBron James three-point play followed by an Anthony Davis seven-foot fadeaway jumper. The duo have combined for half of the Lakers’ 70 points.
Some half-time reading as we await the start of third quarter. Guardian contributor Claire de Lune recently profiled tonight’s first-half star Austin Reaves, who spoke about his improbable journey from rural Arkansas to sharing top billing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the NBA’s glitziest market and featuring on Team USA.
Isaiah Jackson gets to the line with a half-second remaining and cans a couple of foul shots to cut the margin to five points heading into the intermission. It also caps a great half of free-throw shooting for the Pacers: they’re 21-of-22 from the line (95.5%) compared to 11-of-15 (73.3%) for the Lakers. It’s really what’s kept them in the game considering their deficits in shooting percentage, turnovers and offensive rebounding.
Indiana 58-65 Los Angeles; 24.8, second quarter
A driving lay-up by Reaves, a pull-up jumper by Reaves from nine feet, a transition take free throw by Reaves, a cutting lay-up by Reaves, then two more free throws by Reaves. It’s a nine-point burst by the sixth man in 63 seconds of game time. Reaves has 22 points in 12 first-half minutes off the bench. Where would the Lakers be without him?
Indiana 49-52 Los Angeles; 3.19, second quarter
Well, well, well. LeBron just got tangled up with Nesmith on a Lakers possession before the ball had been advanced past half-court and he’s tagged with his third personal foul. That’s the first time James has been whistled for three fouls before half-time since October 2021 … and he’s not happy about it as he heads to the bench.
Indiana 45-48 Los Angeles; 5.53, second quarter
Reaves sinks a pair of free throws to open the Los Angeles lead to eight. He’s got 13 points on 4-for-6 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the stripe. But Indiana’s Aaron Nesmith makes a pair on the other end to cut it back to six, then Toppin follows with a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to halve it to three. It really does feel like the Lakers should have a much wider lead based on how both teams are playing, but the resilient Pacers are showing their mettle.
Indiana 38-44 Los Angeles; 8.59, second quarter
Another driving lay-up by Reaves makes it 42-38. That’s 11 points in seven minutes for the super sub. Moments later, LeBron grabs a defensive rebound off a Bruce Brown miss, drives the length of the court, misses a lay-up, grabs his own rebounds and puts it back for a six-point lead. A furious Rick Carlisle calls a timeout along the Indiana sideline.
The Pacers closed the margin to a single point with about a minute and a half to go, but the Lakers closed with on four straight points from Austin Reaves, who has responded to his recent move from the starting lineup to the bench with nothing but positivity. All told, it could be a lot worse for Indiana given the extent to which Haliburton (three points) has been contained through the opening quarter. Notable stat: The Lakers have 26 points in the paint so far compared to 12 for the Pacers.
Indiana 23-28 Los Angeles; 3.08, first quarter
Another TV timeout. Tough sledding for the Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton so far. He’s been trapped by the Lakers non-stop and so far been held to 1-for-3 from the field (all from beyond the arc) and minus-5 overall. Early days, but there’s no question where Lakers coach Darvin Ham is allotting his resources.
Indiana 20-26 Los Angeles; 3.54, first quarter
Another hard-fought bucket by Davis, who is already into double figures less than eight minutes into the game on 5-for-5 from the floor. Make it 12 points on 6-for-6 after a putback dunk for AD on the ensuing possession. He’s all over the court.
Indiana 13-20 Los Angeles; 6.32, first quarter
The Lakers are in full-bore attack mode and it’s paying off for them. A LeBron James driving lay-up followed by an old-school three-point play by Taurean Prince extends the lead to seven.
Indiana 12-15 Los Angeles; 7.12, first quarter
First TV timeout. The Lakers are forcing turnovers, getting out in transition quickly, drawing fouls and getting Davis off: he’s 4-for-4 from the floor already. A promising start.
Indiana 11-15 Los Angeles; 7.29, first quarter
Los Angeles win the tip. This is theoretically a neutral-court game, but it is clearly a pro-Lakers crowd. Bursts of fast-paced, two-way action in the opening stages but Anthony Davis has stood out with eight quick points, including an 11ft pull-up jumper right now to open a four-point lead. For the Pacers, Obi Toppin has five early points while Bruce Brown Jr has already picked up his second personal foul.
The pre-game pomp is under way. First a moment of silence for the victims of Wednesday’s mass shooting at UNLV, a tragedy which prompted rebuke from LeBron himself. Now it’s R&B singer-songwriter and three-time Grammy winner Ne-Yo performing the Star-Spangled Banner. Beautiful rendition, that. Time for one more word from our sponsors and we’ll be tipped off in just a few minutes.
Hello and welcome to the Las Vegas Strip for the inaugural NBA Cup final. We’ve got a delicious matchup in store between the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Lakers at the T-Mobile Arena to determine the winner of the NBA’s first ever in-season tournament. It’s the first and only game of the debut competition that doesn’t count in the regular-season standings, but there’s plenty on the line including a trophy, bragging rights and the princely sum of $500k per player.
It’s a rematch of the 2000 NBA finals, which took place when the Lakers’ LeBron James was still in high school … and when Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton was only a few months old. And the contrast between these teams’ feature players is an interesting one.
James is the NBA’s career leading scorer, with four titles and 10 NBA finals appearances to his credit. Haliburton, 23, was an All-Star last year, secured a rookie max extension from Indiana over the summer that will be worth at least $205m and is poised to be this year’s breakout star. The Milwaukee native spoke about the opportunity that Saturday night presents at yesterday’s practice day.
“Like any kid born in 2000, LeBron was my favorite player growing up, and it’s hard for him not to be for a lot of us,” he said. “Growing up, I was a Cavs fan, then a Heat fan, then a Cavs fan again, then a Lakers fan before I got drafted. It’s just how it went.
“To be able to compete against him in a championship is kind of like a storybook a little bit, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. But that’s the great part about being in the NBA is getting to compete against your idols on a nightly basis. I really look forward to that.”
Both teams are a perfect 6-0 in tournament play. For the Pacers, that involved scoring wins over Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee to reach this point.
“I just think for us, we’re not supposed to be here and nobody expected us to be here. We’ve been probably looked at to lose the majority of our tournament games. The Philly game, we weren’t supposed to win. Boston game we definitely weren’t supposed to win. Milwaukee, we definitely weren’t supposed to win. That’s just been part of the storybook of this, and it’s been a lot of fun. But it’s not done yet. We’ve got to be prepared to go tomorrow and approach that game the right way.”
Bryan will be here shortly. In the meantime here’s a look back at Thursday’s semi-final contests.