The Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James' stellar fourth-quarter performance, have secured their place in the semifinals of the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament. Their 106-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns was a testament to the team's resilience and star power.
LeBron's Fourth Quarter Heroics
LeBron James was the driving force behind the Lakers' victory, scoring 15 of his 31 points in the final quarter. His remarkable performance included not just scoring but also facilitating the team's offense, as evidenced by his 11 assists.
James' ability to impact the game was further highlighted by his eight rebounds and five steals. Reflecting on the significance of the In-Season Tournament, James said, “The In-Season Tournament is what it is, and we have an opportunity to play on a big stage, be on national television, represent our families, our communities, where we come from”.
James' exceptional shooting in the closing minutes was crucial for the Lakers, as he scored 15 of their first 19 points in the fourth quarter. This effort was instrumental in helping the Lakers take the lead and maintain it against a formidable Suns team.
Controversial Call and Strong Performances
The game was not without controversy, particularly regarding a late-game timeout call that Phoenix Suns coach Frank Vogel disputed. The Suns believed they had caused a turnover, but officials granted a timeout to the Lakers, a decision Vogel found frustrating and questioned the lack of reviewability.
Despite Kevin Durant's 31 points and Devin Booker's late-game efforts, which included cutting the Lakers' lead to one point, it wasn't enough to overcome the Lakers. Austin Reaves also played a crucial role for the Lakers, drilling a significant 3-pointer in the game's final seconds.
Durant, however, chose not to dwell on the contentious call, emphasizing the need to play through such moments without relying on referees. Anthony Davis contributed significantly with 27 points and 15 rebounds, and his free throw in the closing moments set the stage for Durant's potential tying shot, which ultimately missed the mark.
The Lakers, having earned the top seed in the West with an unbeaten record in the group stage, now look forward to facing New Orleans in the semifinals in Las Vegas. The tournament has sparked debate among fans and coaches, but the Lakers' focus remains on the court as they continue their pursuit of success in this new NBA event.