The Lakers made history Saturday, winning the first NBA In-Season Tournament by beating the Indiana Pacers 123-109. It was a dominant victory with L.A. only trailing during the game's opening minutes. The Pacers hung around and got within three in the fourth quarter, but the Lakers always responded and maintained composure.
There have been so many impressive individual performances as the Lakers hope to take the momentum they've built from the In-Season Tournament and translate it to the rest of the regular season. That could be a scary proposition for the rest of the West as the Lakers are already fifth in the standings, but only the top-seed Minnesota Timberwolves have more victories than the Lakers.
Let's grade the win. As always, grades are based on expectations for each player. A "B" grade represents the average performance for that player.
35 minutes, 24 points, 4 assists, 11 rebounds, 10-21 FG, 0-1 3PT, 4-5 FT, +19
How many different ways can we say LeBron James is great?
No, this wasn't his best In-Season Tournament performance, but it was very good as he bullied his way into the paint, challenging a Pacer to stop him. None dared or could.
He fought for rebounds, played the second-highest minutes on the team and, in the fourth quarter, had a sensational dunk that defied the laws of physics and aging, blowing past Tyrese Haliburton and going up and under Obi Toppin, leaving Dr. J stunned courtside.
The Lakers don't make it this far into the tournament without James' performances, and that's why he won the first-ever In-Season Tournament MVP, adding another notch to his endless belt of achievements.
41 minutes, 41 points, 20 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, 16-24 FG, 9-13 FT, +13
You want more from Anthony Davis? How does 41 points and 20 rebounds in a Final sound? That's a season-high in both points and rebounds and more minutes than anyone else played tonight. Myles Turner did his best, but he couldn't stop or even slow down Davis as he kept racking up fouls, ultimately fouling out midway through the fourth.
SEASON-HIGH SCORING FOR ANTHONY DAVIS pic.twitter.com/47Hm3bONOT— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 10, 2023
Davis was the destroyer of worlds tonight with four rejections and a dominant fourth quarter, which the Lakers desperately needed as the Pacers made one final run with under ten minutes left. Davis ended that run by attacking the basket and slamming a D'Angelo Russell pass to give the Lakers a ten-digit lead, all but ending the game.
He was the best player on the court tonight, making those who question his greatness silent, at least for the night.
33 minutes, 9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 4-7 FG, 1-3 3PT, +24
If you just read the stats, you might not think this was a great Cam Reddish game, but it was. He was dominant defensively, often doubling up Haliburton and giving him fits, often preventing him from even getting field goal attempts up.
When T.J. McConnell got going in the fourth, Reddish took on the defensive responsibility and had some notable stops, including a monstrous block on McConnell, which forced even the Pacers guard to chuckle and acknowledge Reddish's performance.
The Lakers struggled with the three ball, but Reddish hit a huge one, keeping the lead at two possessions after Myles Turner converted on an open three to cut the lead to three. A little more offense would've been ideal, but Reddish's plus-minus of + 24 demonstrates his impact on the Lakers winning.
The Lakers trust him, as only Davis and James played more than Reddish tonight.
19 minutes, 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2-3 FG, 1-2 3PT, +4
Not a great Taurean Prince game. He didn't do much detrimental, but it was a forgettable performance, with the only highlight being a corner three in the third.
Defensively, he was fine but not much to write home about. I think the time is fast approaching for Prince to join the second unit.
32 minutes, 13 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 6-15 FG, 0-3 3PT, +17
D'Angelo Russell did a great job getting Davis involved with lots of pick-and-roll actions, feeding Davis early and often. Individually, it was a quiet game for Russell, but he facilitated the ball well and hit key buckets in the fourth when the game started tightening up. He was serviceable defensively and only turned the ball over twice.
28 minutes, 28 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 9-15 FG, 0-3 3PT, 10-12 FT, +10
It was reported that Austin Reaves was dealing with flu-like symptoms before the game, but it didn't impact him on the floor.
Austin Reaves has a game-high 22 POINTS (7/9 FG) off the bench in the first half pic.twitter.com/LCOL3BkB03— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) December 10, 2023
Reaves was oozing confidence with dazzling dribbling and scoring 28 points in 28 minutes. He got to the foul line and converted on 10 of his 12 free throws.
When Reaves gets going, everyone gets excited and that energy is contagious. He's running the floor, making buckets and playing well defensively. Games like today are why the Lakers look at Reaves as untouchable.
9 minutes, 0 points, 0 assists, 2 rebounds, 0-1 FG, -5
Not a good game at all for Rui Hachimura. He was two rebounds away from the Tony Snell award, and while he only played nine minutes, it's not a good sign if your minutes shrink when games matter.
It's just one game and he is coming back from injury, but Rui didn't look ready for tonight's action.
19 minutes, 2 points, 2 rebounds, 0-1 FG, 0-1 3PT, -3
This was one of the worst games for Max Christie. The only bright spot was a nice dime to James and his defense overall was solid. Still, he'll be known more for his mistakes. He had a backcourt violation where Davis scolded him for making the pass and many times he had a deer in headlights look overwhelmed by the attention to detail heightened and the margin for error shrinking.
A game like this is good for Christie. It is better to learn these lessons now while there is still more basketball to play. However, he'll have to be better, or he might not be in the playoff rotation come spring.
16 minutes, 0 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 0-1 FG, -8
It was an average game from Jarred Vanderbilt with no offense, but he did grab a few rebounds and gave the Lakers some decent defensive minutes. Like Hachimura, I think some grace is needed for Vanderbilt as he gets in basketball shape, but just observing today in a vacuum, he was average compared to what he's capable of.
7 minutes, 0 points, 4 rebounds, 0-0 FG, +1
With this being a championship game, minutes were scarce and Hayes was on the outside looking in at the rotation. For games of this importance, this will be Hayes' situation. If he stands out, he'll get some time. If he's pedestrian, he'll stay on the bench. He didn't impress in his few minutes, so he didn't play much.
Christian Wood, Maxwell Lewis, Jalen Hood-Schifino
Christian Wood was a DNP and Maxwell Lewis and Jalen Hood-Schifino only played in the final minute of the game. The only interesting aspect here is that Wood is now behind Hayes in the depth chart.
Darvin Ham pushed all the right buttons. He kept Reaves out there when he was going, pulled Hachimura when he was struggling and brought out a game plan that stalled the most potent offense in the NBA. The Lakers stayed focused and won every quarter except for the second quarter, which ended in a 31-31 draw.
Ham used timeouts at the right moments during Pacer runs and used his challenge on a James foul, which they didn't win, but it seemed like a good use of a challenge. Coaches are judged by wins and if teams reach their full potential. Currently, this team is reaching that potential, and if you blame Ham for tough losses, he deserves credit during historic wins.
Thursday's DNPs: Christian Wood
Thursday's inactives: D'Moi Hodge, Alex Fudge, Colin Castleton, Gabe Vincent
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.