The Los Angeles Lakers are making waves in the NBA's inaugural in-season tournament, and their recent victory against the Utah Jazz has propelled them one step closer to Las Vegas. On Tuesday night, the Lakers delivered a dominant performance, defeating the Jazz with a commanding score of 131-99.
This victory not only secured their place in the tournament's quarterfinals but also marked a significant turnaround for the team. The Lakers' journey in the tournament began on a rocky note, with a 3-5 season record and a three-game losing streak.
However, they found their stride and surged ahead as group play commenced. Facing off against formidable opponents, including the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, and the Utah Jazz, the Lakers showcased their prowess by going undefeated in Group A of the Western Conference.
A few weeks into the competition, the Lakers achieved their third consecutive victory, bringing their overall record to an impressive 9-6. Their dominance was evident in the wins and the point differentials, as they outscored their opponents by a remarkable 74 points during group play.
LeBron James, a cornerstone of the Lakers' success, reached a personal milestone during the game, surpassing 39,000 career points. He contributed significantly to the win with 17 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds against the Jazz.
Path to Semifinals
In the wake of this triumph, the Lakers are now guaranteed a home game in the quarterfinals, set to take place on December 4 or 5. A victory in the quarterfinals would secure them a spot in the semifinals in Las Vegas.
The tournament format allows the winners of Groups A, B, and C in each conference to advance to the quarterfinals, along with a wild card entry. Anthony Davis played a pivotal role in the victory, leading the Lakers with an impressive performance of 26 points and 16 rebounds.
He emphasized the importance of playing at home and the support of their fans as the Lakers aim to clinch the championship. The Lakers have been transparent about their motivation for excelling in the in-season tournament—not only the competitive spirit but also the substantial cash prize.
The winning team in the championship game on December 9 will receive a generous $500,000 bonus per player. Even the runner-up will be awarded $200,000 per player, and reaching the semifinals on December 7 guarantees each player a significant $100,000.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham highlighted the allure of the prize money, emphasizing that it adds an extra layer of motivation for the players. He acknowledged that the incentive is undeniably attractive, stating, "Guys like money.
... Not like it, they love it. That incentive right there—it's huge." Christian Wood, a key player for the Lakers, also weighed in on the financial aspect of the tournament, especially for the younger players. Wood, on a $2.7 million veteran's minimum contract for the season, stressed the significance of the potential winnings.
The Lakers' achievement makes them the second team to secure their group in the tournament, following the Indiana Pacers' triumph in Group A of the Eastern Conference. Lakers coach Darvin Ham expressed satisfaction with the team's progress, emphasizing their commitment to playing together and continually improving.
As the Lakers advance to the quarterfinals, the anticipation for their performance in Las Vegas continues to grow. With a blend of seasoned stars and emerging talent, the Lakers are poised to make a strong statement in the tournament and compete for the coveted championship.