Lakers edge Suns for In-Tournament win

LOS ANGELES, California – The Los Angeles Lakers are headed to Las Vegas for a chance to become the first-ever in-season champions. After defeating the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night 106-103, Los Angeles will now face the New Orleans Pelicans in the semifinals.

LeBron James’s legacy is cemented as one of the greatest athletes of all time. Something like the NBA In-Season Tournament presents itself, and everyone wants to know what it means to King James.

At this point in his storied career, nothing short of winning the MVP or championship should move the needle. Yet his legacy continues to grow.

“It feels great because it is an In-Season Tournament win,” said James after beating the Suns in November. “I heard that there is $500,000 on the line, and we are going for that for sure.”

Role players have more incentive when it comes to cash prizes. The $500,000 per player the eventual in-season champions will receive is only a fraction of what LeBron will earn this season. Even so, it still feels like James has the most to gain.

At this point, the most impressive thing LeBron is doing in the Michael Jordan-LeBron James debate is outlasting MJ. Small victories like the In-Season Tournament will leave a lasting impression on how people remember the later stages of the first ballot Hall of Famers career.

“The games have been really intense,” said Darvin Ham before tip-off. “It is fun. This part of the year, you start to feel the grind of the season, but in games like this, any type of mental and physical fatigue kind of go away, and you focus on the prize.”

The quarterfinal featured another matchup between LeBron and Kevin Durant, arguably the two greatest talents of this generation of basketball players. Taking down his friend and rival was just added motivation for James.

LeBron did not light up the Suns for the half-century mark in points, but he played with energy, continuously attacking the basket and diving for loose balls. James ended up with 31 points and 11 assists in the win against the Suns.

The fact that he logged over 40 minutes in a regular season game lets people know he intends to give it his all to become the first-ever NBA In-Season champions.

“You have some of the most alpha male competitors in the world. To give us an opportunity to play for something meaningful and have an incentive, you get what you are getting,” said LeBron postgame.

James has nothing to lose, and no one will ever talk about how he could not prevail in such an unknown and somewhat meaningless tournament. That being said, a win would be another example of how he is still dominating the sport at the age of 38, something no other player has done.

Top Image Caption: Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James #23 drives to basket against the Phoenix Suns during an NBA basketball game at Crypto.com Arena, Tuesday December 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. (Ringo Chiu via AP)

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