We’ve arrived at the inaugural NBA Cup title game matchup. The Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers both went 6-0 in the In-Season Tournament to reach the final in Las Vegas.
The Pacers stunned the Celtics and the Bucks — the two teams favored to win the Eastern Conference this year — in the knockout rounds. The Lakers dispatched a Bradley Beal-less Suns team and then embarrassed the Pelicans in the semifinal round.
Here are Tyler Fulghum, Eric Moody and Steve Alexander to go over the bets to make in Saturday’s championship showdown.
Projections and Injury Reports
Basketball Power Index by ESPN Analytics Injury aggregation by Rotowire.com.
Records (Against the Spread)
Pacers: 12-8 (12-8-0)
Lakers: 14-9 (11-12-0)
Line: Lakers (-4.5) Total: 240.5
Money Line: Pacers (+160), Lakers (-190)
Pacers: None reported
Lakers: None reported
Lakers (-4.5, 240.5) vs. Pacers in Las Vegas. The Pacers impressively took down the Celtics and Bucks this week, while the Lakers knocked off the Suns and blew out the Pelicans. How are you betting this game?
Fulghum: It’s hard to ignore how much this appears to matter LeBron James. He’s in dominant playoff form. He took three charges in the 1st half of the win over the Pelicans. He became the first player in NBA history to score 30+ points and add 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists in less than 23 minutes. I like the Lakers -4.5 in this spot.
Alexander: I might be a homer as I grew up in Indy but this Pacers team is built differently, mainly because of Tyrese Haliburton, and it feels like a team of destiny to me, at least in the In-Season Tournament. I’m not betting against Haliburton and love the fact that Rick Carlisle has embraced his team’s strengths and has become one of the most fun coaches in the league. Give me the Pacers and the points.
Moody: I’m with Tyler on this (Lakers -4.5). While LeBron has countless accolades and holds countless statistical records during his long storied career, he does seem very motivated to in the league’s inaugural In-Season tournament. As both the Pacers and the Lakers rank in the top-10 in pace, this should be a fast-paced game, but Los Angeles’ defense should be the difference maker. The Lakers rank seventh in points allowed per 100 possessions. The Lakers are 6-0 against the spread in the In-Season tournament.
In-Season Tournament MVP is really down to LeBron James (-145) and Tyrese Haliburton (+130), with Anthony Davis (+1500) being the longshot and only other player in the mix. Is this simply a case of the MVP coming from the winning team? Who are you taking?
Fulghum: Yes I would suggest betting LeBron to win MVP (-145) as the best way to bet the IST Final. The Lakers ML price is -190. What are the chances the Lakers win the trophy and it’s someone other than LeBron who is deemed MVP? After that performance against New Orleans, I think those chances are very slim.
Alexander: I feel like Haliburton has done enough to win the award if the Lakers win a close game. LeBron’s stats aren’t earth shattering and things become more convoluted if Davis, Austin Reaves or D’Angelo Russell outplays LeBron in the final. It’s a new tournament and there are no set rules, so it’d be cool if Haliburton were to win it on a losing team. Then again, if the Pacers win the game it won’t matter.
Moody: I would also bet on LeBron. He’s averaged 26.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game in the In-Season tournament. The Lakers have been energized by James’ energy so far in the tournament. In his most recent game, James finished with a +36 plus-minus, tied for third best in a game in his career. I would be shocked if he doesn’t deliver another exceptional performance on Saturday in the championship.
Are there any player props you’re playing in this game?
Fulghum: LeBron James OVER 27.5 points (-135). James breezed his way to 30 points on just 12 field goal attempts and 23 minutes on the floor in the semifinal win over New Orleans. He’s clearly locked in and focused. He now gets the best matchup there is in the NBA for scoring production. The Pacers play at the fastest pace in the league and they have no one who can handle LeBron.
What is one big takeaway you have that can help bettors heading into next season’s In-Season Tournament?
Fulghum: I would look for young, ascending teams that have a bonafide star to bet on. Preferably, a team that hasn’t yet tasted significant playoff success yet. The Pacers, Kings, and Pelicans fit that mold this year. I thought the Magic would be a team that could make it to the knockout round. They finished group play 3-1 and lost out on the tie breaking point differential. Next year, it could be the Rockets, Spurs, Magic, T-Wolves and Thunder that fit that mold.
Alexander: The Pacers, Lakers, Bucks and Kings all breezed through pool play undefeated and the Pacers and Lakers are completely different teams. The Lakers are built around their two aging superstars who are expected to do all the heavy lifting while the Pacers try to run you out of the gym using Haliburton’s motor. Indy’s been very successful at doing just that so I’d say take the youngest, fastest undefeated team you can find next year.
Moody: A key takeaway for me is not to underestimate teams that are not strong defensively but excel offensively. The Pacers are exactly this type of team. Indiana ranks first in points scored per 100 possessions. As well as playing fast, the Pacers shoot the ball well. Indiana also has an effective field goal percentage of 59%, the highest in the league. Quick transitions and fast breaks allow teams like the Pacers to create more shot opportunities, which can overwhelm opponents. You might be able to find values in next season’s tournament if you don’t overlook teams with this type of profile.