The NBA’s In-Season Tournament final four is set. The Los Angeles Lakers emerged from their quarterfinal matchup with the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night, in part, thanks to a controversial timeout that was issued in the waning seconds of the game. Regardless, the Lakers are moving on to face the New Orleans Pelicans in Thursday’s West semifinal in Las Vegas. In outlasting the Suns in the 106-103 victory, the Lakers remain undefeated in IST play. LeBron James continues to stiff arm Father Time and re-write the record books.
In Tuesday’s early quarterfinal, the Milwaukee Bucks rolled over the visiting New York Knicks, 146-122, and will now meet the Indiana Pacers in the East semifinal on Thursday afternoon. Pretty much everything went right for the Bucks, who were lethal from 3, shooting 60.5% (23 of 38) and on a high volume to boot. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 35 points and added eight rebounds and 10 assists. Damian Lillard shot a whopping 71.1% from 3, connecting on five of seven shots from distance. Julius Randle scored 41 points for New York.
On Monday night, the Pelicans erased a 15-point deficit in the first quarter, and went on to take a 69-61 lead at halftime. Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 30 points. “[Ingram] was incredible,” said coach Willie Green. “He put us on his shoulders and he carried us.”
Meanwhile, the Pacers rode MVP candidate Tyrese Haliburton who notched his first career triple double with 26 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists. With the score knotted at 105, Haliburton converted a four-play with 93 second left in the game to put Pacers up for good. “The atmosphere was crazy,” he said. “We’re excited to be [going to Las Vegas], but we want to win.”
The In-Season Tournament culminates in Saturday’s championship for the NBA Cup. The title game will not count toward the league’s 82-game regular season standings, although each winning player will receive $500,000.
The end of the quarterfinals also means that the last two of Friday’s flex games have been determined. All four losing teams from the IST quarterfinal round will play Friday night. The Knicks will visit the Celtics and the Suns will host the Kings.