The Los Angeles Lakers are the champions of the inaugural In-Season Tournament.
They won it with the aid of a monster game from Anthony Davis who scored a game (and would-be season-high 41 points and 20 rebounds. But they also got a gutsy performance from Austin Reaves who entered the contest feeling under the weather. He finished the 123-109 win over the Indiana Pacers with 28 points on 60% shooting.
“Who had the better flu game: AR or [Michael Jordan],” LeBron James – who won the MVP award for his exploits in the tournament – yelled across the locker room during Reaves’ session with the media, via @ohnohedidnt24. “It’s up for debate.’”
“I’m gonna let LeBron keep talking and I’m gonna continue to talk about the game,” Reaves said in reaction with a smile.
Reaves scored 22 points in his first 12 minutes on the floor.
I just try to play the game the right way.” Reaves said during his postgame media availability. “Everything kind of worked tonight.”
Reaves added three assists and two rebounds. The only thing that didn’t work for him was the long ball. He was 0-for-3 for the game. But, in what has become somewhat of a trademark for him, he was 10-for-12 at the free throw line. The attempts would be a season-high if the numbers from this game counted toward regular season stats.
Reaves also gave a typical answer when asked about his plans for the $500,000 prize money.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” Reaves, a notoriously avid and confident golfer said. “The only thing I could actually think of is join a golf club in L.A. somewhere so I can golf whenever I want out there.”
Jordan’s “flu game” was in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in 1997. The stakes are slightly lower in the In-Season Tournament, perhaps explaining Reaves’ apprehension about agreeing with James.
Austin Reaves Sends ‘Shout Out’ to Anthony Davis
Reaves certainly appreciated what he saw from Davis, who would have set multiple season highs had the stats counted.
“I don’t really think I need to say anything. I think all what he did um stood for itself,” Reaves said citing Davis’ rebounding, defense, and scoring. “When he plays like that, there’s – probably no one – but not many people better than him in the league. So shout out to him for doing that tonight and basically for the whole season we’ve had so far.”
Davis’ night earned him a boost from another Hall-of-Fame Laker great, Pau Gasol, who enjoyed the former’s emotional outburst during the game.
After the game, Davis spoke about a newfound level of focus this season.
“The ‘I-don’t-give-a-f—ness?’ Yes. I have,” Davis said, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN on December 10. “And I don’t [care]. As long as my team is winning and I’m with my guys in the locker room, that’s all I care about. Anybody else’s opinions don’t matter to me. I genuinely mean that. I don’t care.”
Austin Reaves: Cam Reddish ‘One of the Best Players on the Floor’
The Lakers held Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton to 20 points, or 6.9 points below his season average, and an inefficient 2-for-8 from beyond the arc. Haliburton is a career 41.2% three-point shooter who is knocking down a career-high 44.1% this season. Reaves name-dropped Cam Reddish for keeping Haliburton largely in check.
“Anytime you can hold … the number one offense in the league and a guy like Tyrese – his efficiency and the way he plays the game,” Reaves said praising the Lakers’ defense. “I thought, regardless of Cam’s points rebounds assists I thought he was one of the best players on the floor tonight.”
“The way that he pressured kind of deaded their outlets, kind of slowed their pace down,” Reaves said. And just as a unit, everybody seemed to be locked in on you know the the task in hand. And if that’s the case, then we believe we can be really good.”