Undefeated Lakers Eyeing Perfect Finish in In-Season Tournament

The Los Angeles Lakers, currently the sole undefeated team in the NBA’s in-season tournament, are on a mission to maintain their perfect record as they face the Utah Jazz in Southern California on Tuesday.

While six other teams stand at 2-0, the Lakers have the opportunity to be the first to advance to the knockout rounds with an impeccable mark. Surprisingly, the 8-6 Lakers haven’t necessarily prioritized winning the new in-season trophy; instead, their turnaround coincided with the arrival of the tournament.

The Lakers’ ascent began during their tournament opener at Phoenix on Nov. 10, where they turned a slow start into a 122-119 victory over the Suns. The team’s impressive comeback included a 33-23 fourth-quarter surge, breaking a three-game losing streak.

Subsequent tournament victories against the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers have solidified the Lakers’ position with a tournament-best plus-42 point differential.

Preparing for the final group-play game, the Lakers secured a non-tournament victory over the Houston Rockets with LeBron James scoring a season-best 37 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. Teammate Anthony Davis praised James, emphasizing that it doesn’t feel like he’s 38, and coach Darvin Ham commended the performance as the LeBron they’ve known and loved over his 21-year career.

In the same game, Austin Reaves, adjusting to a reserve role, played a crucial part with 17 points, including a game-changing 31-foot 3-pointer in the final seconds.

The Utah Jazz, on the other hand, come into this matchup after a double-overtime defeat to the Phoenix Suns. Despite the loss, Lauri Markkanen’s impressive performance with 38 points and 17 rebounds showcased the team’s resilience.

Jazz coach Will Hardy expressed pride in his team’s effort and emphasized the slim margin between winning and losing in the NBA. The Jazz, at 2-1 in the tournament, have not had the season they hoped for but are finding success in crucial moments.

As the Lakers and the Jazz face off, both teams are navigating a season of ups and downs, with the in-season tournament providing a unique platform for redemption and a shot at glory. The margin between victory and defeat is slim, and both teams are eager to capitalize on the opportunities presented in this high-stakes matchup.

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