The Los Angeles Lakers are the greatest In-Season Tournament team of all time.
Okay, that’s laying it on thick, but topping Los Angeles’ year one performance will be tough to beat in subsequent In-Season Tournaments. They went 7-0 in tournament play, had a +124 point differential and won it all by beating the Indiana Pacers 123-109.
How much this tournament is a projection of postseason success will be an interesting factor to monitor this spring/summer, but head coach Darvin Ham seems to think this Lakers squad needed this level of competition early on to get where they ultimately want to go, the NBA Finals.
“This is a great source of positive stimuli for us with this group trying to come together, with guys coming from being inactive to being active and being in rhythm, the continuity and also the heightened awareness because we’re playing the In-Season Tournament,” Ham said following the title win. “I think everyone being able to have their competitive spirit revealed and their comrades to see their competitive spirit, it’s a huge shot in the arm for us. Our group needed this and we needed to win this. If it goes the other way, then you try to rationalize or whatever. The fact that we were able to come here and do what we did, obviously it was a lopsided game in the semi-final game, but Indiana put up a great fight and they’re a good up-and-coming ball club.”
ANTHONY DAVIS WITH THE BLOCK AND CAM REDDISH WITH THE SLAM pic.twitter.com/fk7QCsJrU1— Ahn Fire Digital (@AhnFireDigital) December 10, 2023
The Lakers brought a higher level of energy to these In-Season Tournament games. Anthony Davis played the best game of the season versus the Pacers, scoring 41 points and grabbing 20 rebounds. Both are season highs for Davis. Late in the fourth, he had a chase down block and following the rejection, the often silent star scowled and had a facial expression I’d never seen him express. He looked more like Kobe Bryant than Anthony Davis.
Now, Los Angeles has to take this energy and focus and apply it to the rest of the season. They are just a full game back from the second seed in the West, have won three games in a row and are nearing full health with the return of Gabe Vincent soon approaching.
If the Lakers can take this In-Season Tournament momentum and turn it into a title run, then this might be a blueprint future NBA teams apply toward a successful season.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.