June 15, 2024

Lakers (LeBron James, Anthony Davis) dominate, Tyrese Haliburton stars and more NBA Cup takeaways

LAS VEGAS — What is it with the Los Angeles Lakers and unconventional NBA championships?

First, they win the 2020 NBA bubble title, and now they’re champions of the brand new In-Season Tournament, which was such a smashing success. Let the report present that I’ve at all times defended the worth of their bubble title, and consider that the psychological focus it took to attain that Larry O’Brien Trophy may need outmoded what it takes to win a championship in a standard season. 

Still, it’s fairly the oddity that this legacy franchise occurred to earn these two crowns. Alas, LeBron James & Co. deserve all of the flowers which can be coming their manner after downing the Indiana Pacers 123-109 to win the first-ever NBA Cup at T-Mobile Arena. 

Yet, no matter who received this title, there’s a macro takeaway from the inaugural occasion that will get a convincing endorsement from this NBA scribe: For higher or worse, this unprecedented stage positive appears to encourage some critical soul-searching.

For instance, the Lakers will now resume the remainder of their common season with the information that their strategy has actual and elite potential. Anthony Davis, whose 41-point, 20-rebound outing sparked reminiscences of his dominant Florida bubble run, reminded the plenty that he might be that man on a serious stage.

James, who’s smacking Father Time within the mouth every day, had 24 factors, 11 rebounds and 4 assists en path to incomes MVP honors. Cam Reddish continued his defensive-minded renaissance. Austin Reaves (28 factors) balled out off the bench. They regarded like a workforce that can matter when May rolls round. But that very same dynamic exists with a number of different groups too, and the conclusions being reached aren’t at all times fairly so rosy. 

Here’s a take a look at a couple of of the opposite takeaways from the Vegas portion of this IST tourney:

What’s improper with Zion?

By the time New Orleans was embarrassed by the Lakers in a 133-89 semifinal blowout, nobody cared anymore that the Pelicans’ Zion Williamson had been playing well in recent weeks. On this historic stage, in a recreation that certified as probably the most important of his injury-riddled five-year NBA profession, he laid the form of egg that received’t quickly be forgotten.

It wasn’t about his line, per se, although 13 factors, two rebounds, and a minus-33 mark in 25 minutes mentioned lots about his outing. As TNT’s Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley highlighted after the game, it was more about the way in which he regarded. Physically. Mentally. All of the above.

To Williamson’s credit score, he owned all of it in his media session afterward. He used the phrase “aggressive” 9 instances whereas admitting that he had been far too passive. He described himself as “too laid back” and highlighted his porous protection and general effort.

But none of that modifications the truth that he has raised the alarm bells, but once more, concerning the state of his stagnant recreation and the larger image query of what his NBA future would possibly maintain. The Pelicans didn’t give the previous No. 1 decide a five-year, $231 million in the summertime of 2022 with visions of him taking part in like this, which means the scrutiny will stay till he seems to be just like the form of franchise expertise that so many projected him to be.

The Pelicans (12-11) resume their season at league-leading Minnesota (17-4) on Monday night time.

Bucks have points

If all you probably did was take a look at the standings, you’d assume the Bucks have been in a great place. Even with their 128-119 loss to the Pacers within the semifinal, Milwaukee (15-7) is tied for second within the Eastern Conference and third league-wide. That’s not precisely trigger for disaster mode, proper? Well …

It was the way in which they misplaced to Indiana that triggered all kinds of consternation inside their locker room. And when Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported that Bucks massive man Bobby Portis had “passionately challenged” first-year coach Adrian Griffin and his teammates behind closed doorways afterward, it shocked nobody who had been paying consideration this season. 

Amid all this huge change, from the offseason option to replace coach Mike Budenholzer with Griffin to the blockbuster trade for Damian Lillard that value them a two-way terror in Jrue Holiday, there had been indicators of rising pains all season lengthy. The most notable change has been the Bucks’ drastic decline on the defensive finish (fourth in defensive ranking final season to 22nd currently).

The Bucks’ inner concern appeared to floor after the Pacers recreation when Giannis Antetokounmpo’s candid information convention raised some eyebrows within the room along with his degree of frustration. As Bucks beat author Eric Nehm detailed right here, that sort of sentiment was everywhere.

But when it comes to the intriguing impression that comes with the IST, it’s truthful to surprise if the Bucks would have had this kind of response if, say, they misplaced to Indiana in Game No. 22 as a part of the previous regular-season format. It’s extremely uncertain, from this vantage level. A highlight like this one tends so as to add pleasure for the victors and ache for these groups that fall. For the latter teams, a more vital self-analysis ensues from there.

Of all of the issues I by no means anticipated to be doing whereas overlaying the IST in Vegas, writing about Haliburton on consecutive days — and from multiple angles — was not on the previous bingo card. But that was the great thing about what the Indiana Pacers level guard did on this match, as he persistently dazzled within the form of manner that made him unimaginable to disregard. That facet of this IST expertise ought to have endurance, giving gamers and groups that aren’t usually competing on middle stage an opportunity to indicate out for the plenty.

Haliburton wasn’t almost as dominant within the finale with the Lakers’ dimension and size (courtesy of Jarred Vanderbilt and Reddish) inflicting him suits. He completed with 20 factors and 11 assists, that are properly beneath his season averages of 26.9 factors and his league-leading 12.1 assists.

But there was a persistence to his recreation that was spectacular, as he discovered methods to make an impression regardless of the Lakers’ protection that was so dominant. With 6 minutes, 43 seconds left within the recreation, the Pacers have been solely down 100-96 earlier than the Lakers surged late. The Pacers received’t have a lot time to dwell on the loss, as they play at Detroit on Monday night time.

“Yeah, we’re sick, frustrated,” Haliburton mentioned afterward. “We just got outplayed tonight from the start of the game to the end of the game. Just didn’t do the job on loose balls, didn’t rebound, didn’t get enough stops when needed. They just outplayed us and it’s frustrating.

“It’s funny because it’s like everybody says this has like the NCAA Tournament feel, but after a game like that you’re sitting in the locker room going, most of us ain’t graduating, we play on Monday. It’s definitely frustrating. We’ve got to take that one on the chin. …

“We’ve done some great things to get here, competed against some good teams and battled, and you can’t let that happen for no reason. If you allow this loss to roll over and we’ve got a four-game road trip coming up here, you’ve got to take care of business and handle it the right way and celebrate the successes of it. But at the end of the day, it’s just like the regular season. It’s Game 22, 23. Got to move on.”

Let the IST tweaks start

When Commissioner Adam Silver gave his pregame information convention, he joked that he was rising bored with the phrase “tweaks” in regards to the IST. Then inside minutes of constructing that declaration, Silver couldn’t assist however preach about a few of the modifications that can inevitably be coming within the match.

Yet, past the dialogue in regards to the level differential tiebreaker and the variety of IST video games, right here’s one specific matter of focus in league circles: The future location of the IST.

According to a league supply, the NBA’s contract with Las Vegas for the match was for only one yr. So whereas there’s all kinds of momentum on this market, and the related actuality that the league is significantly contemplating the prospect of increasing in Vegas within the years to come back, there isn’t any enterprise dedication to Sin City in 2024.

(Photo of LeBron James and Tyrese Haliburton: Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE through Getty Images)