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It isn’t exactly who was expected, but it’ll be the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers meeting in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament Championship Game.
Saturday’s opening tipoff from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN2. Let’s dive into the odds for the showcase game along with
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NBA In-Season Tournament Championship Game: Pacers vs. Lakers odds preview
The upstart Pacers (12-8) have been the surprise of the IST, sweeping through their Eastern Conference group with a 4-0 record before upending the current top two teams in the East — the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks — in the knock-out bracket.
Led by emerging superstar Tyrese Haliburton (26.9 points, league-best 12.1 assists per game), Indiana is winning with the NBA’s most potent offense (128.4 ppg, 123.5 offensive rating).
Center Myles Turner was clutch in Thursday’s 128-119 semifinal win over the Bucks, with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while the Indiana bench outscored Milwaukee’s 43-13.
The 14-9 Lakers have been a perfect 6-0 in IST play, going 4-0 in their pool before beating the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans to advance to the title tilt.
LeBron James, who turns 39 on Dec. 30, is defying the sands of time, scoring 31 and 30 points, respectively, in the wins over the Suns and Pelicans while totaling 19 assists and 13 rebounds.
His chief running mate, center Anthony Davis, is averaging 22.7 points and a team-best 12.7 rebounds on the season. It will be incumbent upon him and the Lakers’ seventh-best defense (110.3 rating) to try and slow the high-scoring Pacers.
As demonstrated in Thursday night’s 133-89 semifinal rout of New Orleans, the Lakers will have a pronounced advantage with the pro-L.A. Vegas crowd.
And they are priced as such on the championship game point spread (a consensus -4) and moneyline (-175). The game total has opened in the low 240s and was at a consensus of 241 points as of early Friday.
NBA In-Season Tournament Championship Game best bet: Lakers ML (-167 or better)
Haliburton and the Pacers have opened many eyes, establishing themselves as a dark horse season contender in the East during their captivating run to the IST championship game.
But in James and Davis, the Lakers have the big-game, title-winning experience that Indiana does not. Look for that to shine through Saturday night on the national stage.
And with a decidedly pro-Lakers crowd rooting them on, L.A. will claim the inaugural NBA Cup to add to its overflowing franchise trophy case.
NBA In-Season Tournament Championship best bet: LeBron James to win IST MVP (-140 or better)
James has made no secret of his desire to add an IST title to his first-ballot Hall of Fame resume.
And to that end, he’s truly been playing like a man on a mission, averaging 26.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.2 assists, and 1.8 steals per outing on 56.5 percent shooting in his six tournament games.
If you’re betting on the Lakers to take the title, correlating it with a James IST MVP wager is a no-brainer. Do likewise with Haliburton if you’re siding with the Pacers.
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