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Lakers player grades: L.A. wins inaugural NBA Cup over the Pacers

At some point on Thursday when the Los Angeles Lakers obliterated the New Orleans Pelicans in the semifinal round of the in-season tournament, the Lakers became the clear favorite to win the first NBA Cup.

In the final game of the tourney on Saturday, they faced the Indiana Pacers, who came in averaging an incredible 128.4 points a game while leading the league in several offensive categories. It was thought the Pacers would have a decent chance of winning the contest if they were able to catch L.A. off guard.

The Lakers got off to a modest lead in the first quarter, but the Pacers remained competitive throughout. Los Angeles shot much better than the Pacers in the first half, while the Pacers had a big advantage at the free throw line, making it a 65-60 L.A. lead at halftime.

The Lakers seemed to toy with the Pacers in the second half, as the Pacers were able to keep things somewhat close, but it never seemed as if Tyrese Haliburton’s squad had a real shot at winning. The Pacers got as close as three points multiple times in the fourth quarter, but in the end, the star power of the Purple and Gold was simply too much.

The Lakers ended up winning 123-109 to take home the NBA Cup. They had a huge edge in rebounding and shooting percentage while nearly doubling up Indiana in points in the paint and ending up with two more free throw attempts. They also outscored Indiana, who leads the league in fast-break points, 21-18 in that category.

While this isn’t the trophy the Lakers are truly after, they have served notice that despite a 3-5 start, they’re gathering some real momentum as a contender for the NBA world championship.

Anthony Davis: A-plus

Davis was, without a sliver of doubt, the best and most dominant player in this game, by a wide margin. He came out aggressive, making his first six shots and scoring 13 points in the first quarter. He had 11 rebounds plus 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting at halftime, and he continued his productivity in the second half. Davis was able to draw fouls, which resulted in Pacers center Myles Turner fouling out with just over four minutes left in the game.

The Lakers superstar big man finished with 41 points on an incredible 16-of-24 field-goal shooting, 20 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots. This is additional proof that Davis does step up in big games, as he did in last season’s playoffs and during L.A.’s run to the 2020 NBA title.

Taurean Prince: B-minus

Prince was quiet, especially offensively, but he was part of an amazing defensive effort by the Lakers. They held the Pacers to just 36.8% shooting from the field, and he was one of several players who swarmed the Pacers on the perimeter while giving Haliburton different looks.

The forward scored six points and hit one of only two 3-pointers by L.A. in this game, while also adding three rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes.

Cam Reddish: B

Like Prince, Reddish made his best contribution on the defensive end. He blocked three shots, which is an area he usually doesn’t contribute in, and he helped hound Indiana on the perimeter and as it brought the ball upcourt.

But he also helped on the other end, as he shot 4-of-7 overall to score nine points. He hit a key 3-pointer with 5:50 left in the fourth quarter to double the Lakers’ lead when Indiana was threatening to tie or take the lead. It was the start of a 13-0 run that put the game away for good.

D'Angelo Russell: B-minus

Russell shot just 6-of-15 and missed all three of his 3-point attempts, but he dished off a team-high seven assists against just two turnovers. He also added four rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot.

LeBron James: B/B-plus

James was clearly motivated in this game, as he has been throughout the in-season tournament. He pushed the pace early and was active defensively, and he did a good job of running the floor on the wing to get some easy baskets. Unfortunately, he committed his third foul with 3:19 left in the second quarter, but the Lakers were able to keep pace during the rest of the first half.

His shooting accuracy tapered off a bit in the second half, but he still scored 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals in 35 minutes. The one negative was that he had six turnovers, but overall, this was a very solid performance.

James was awarded the MVP of the in-season tournament, as he has had a number of great performances in the Lakers’ seven tourney contests.

Austin Reaves: A

Reaves was his peak self in the first half. He scored 22 points on 7-of-9 field-goal shooting and 8-of-9 from the free throw line by halftime, and he allowed the Lakers to maintain their lead with James in foul trouble. The undrafted guard often attacked the basket, but he also has his mid-range game going.

He finished with 28 points on 9-of-15 from the field and 10-of-12 from the charity stripe, three assists, two rebounds and no turnovers. It’s becoming clear the Lakers want him to not only run the offense but to take charge in terms of scoring when James is resting.

Max Christie: C-plus

In 19 minutes, Christie helped out defensively with one steal, and early in the game, he made a nice pass to James on the fast break for a layup.

However, late in the third quarter, he brought the ball upcourt and casually threw a lateral pass to Davis just after crossing midcourt. Davis was on the midcourt line when catching the ball, so it resulted in an over-and-back violation for L.A.

Christie had two points, two rebounds and an assist, and he was the only Lakers bench player other than Reaves to score a single point.

Jarred Vanderbilt: B

Again, Vanderbilt made a nice contribution in multiple categories. In 16 minutes he grabbed four rebounds, blocked two shots and added one steal and one assist. At times, Vanderbilt pressured Haliburton’s ball-handling, and at one point, it resulted in a steal for him, which he turned into an assist to Russell on the fast break for a layup.

The forward didn’t score, and at one point, he missed a dunk attempt that would’ve been a highlight reel play had the ball gone through the hoop. But his value to the Lakers is obvious.

Rui Hachimura: D-plus

This was a very quiet game for Hachimura. He missed his only shot attempt and only contributed two rebounds in nine minutes.

Jaxson Hayes: B

Hayes helped out on the boards with four rebounds, and he added one assist in seven minutes of playing time.

Maxwell Lewis, Jalen Hood-Schifino: Incomplete

Both rookies came into the game near the end, and neither made any contribution on the stat sheet.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire