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Lakers vs. Pacers Preview: Will L.A. be the first ever NBA Cup champions?

Saturday’s In-Season Tournament championship game between the Lakers and Pacers will boil down to which superstar carries their team across the finish line.

In-Season Tournament - New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers knocked out the New Orleans Pelicans in Las Vegas last Thursday to remain undefeated and advance to the finals of the In-Season Tournament. They’re now aiming to claim the inaugural NBA Cup on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers

When: 5:30 p.m. PT, Dec. 9

Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

Watch: ABC/ESPN2

After exactly a month since the in-season tournament commenced, there are now just two teams left in the Lakers and Pacers, both of whom managed to stay undefeated throughout. Think of it as a rematch of the 2000 NBA Finals, only at a different location with a different set of players...and slightly lower stakes.

The Pacers have the league’s best offense this season. Led by their superstar Tyrese Haliburton — who is having one hell of a tournament, averaging a career-high 26.9 points and 12.1 assists for the season — Indiana is on pace to have the best offensive season in NBA history.

Despite their atrocious 28th-ranked defense, the Pacers are beating teams with their pace and overall ability to score efficiently everywhere on the court. And it seems Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, and the rest of the Lakers are already well aware of what kind of offensive machine they’re running into in the final stage of the IST.

Both Davis and Reaves gave a glimpse of what to expect from this Indiana team on Saturday:

“They’re a good ball club,” Davis said. “We were actually talking about it, I think maybe last week, that they score a lot of points...Obviously, the head of the snake is Tyrese with good role players around him who complement him very well. They’re young, they’re scrappy, they get out and run and play the right way so it’s going to be a test for our defense for sure but it’s going to be an exciting game.”

“They play with a lot of pace,” Reaves said. “You know, Tyrese does a hell of a job leading their whole team. The way they play offensively is super fast, get up a lot of threes but just the pace they play with. We’re going to have to be in high alert every single time they take a shot offensively whether miss or make, they’re going to be running the ball down the floor as fast as they can right after that so for me, it’s just energy and playing the game the right way.”

While the finals of the IST will be a single-elimination game, this match is an intriguing test for the Lakers’ defense. Can the Lakers’ defense stop an offense that puts up an average of 128.4 points per game? Will they be able to contain Haliburton? More importantly, can the Lakers keep up with the team that leads the league in pace?

It’s also interesting to note that this Pacers team gives up the most points in the paint but, ironically, scores the most points in the paint as well. The good news for the purple and gold is that they happen to score in and defend the interior extremely well. Also, this Pacers team doesn’t rebound the ball well so this is a prime time for the Lakers to have their best rebounding performance of the season.

Ultimately, though, this game will boil down to which superstar carries their team to victory or, in this case, the first-ever NBA Cup championship. James and Haliburton have been spectacular throughout the IST and both their teams are feeling confident heading into this one — especially after the performance they’ve had.

There’s nothing like concluding what has been a successful IST tournament with a game between both undefeated teams who deserve to be on this stage. Will the Lakers depart from Las Vegas as the first NBA Cup champions? We’ll know on Saturday.

Notes and Updates:

  • The finals of the NBA Cup will not be counted as a regular season game. This means that every stat accumulated across the board will not affect the teams and players’ current numbers in the regular season. This also means that the Lakers and Pacers will play 83 games this season.
  • Before we get to the injury report, here’s a fun fact: The Lakers currently have a record of 14-9, which is five games above .500. This is a mark they haven’t reached since May 2021. Let’s also enjoy the fact that they’re 11-4 in their last 15 games.
  • For the Lakers injury report, Gabe Vincent (left knee effusion) is listed as out. Anthony Davis (left adductor/hip spasm), LeBron James (left calf contusion) and Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis) are probable.
  • As for Indiana, Andrew Nembhard (right knee soreness) and Jalen Smith (heel) are out.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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