The NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament is running smoothly as the bracket section of the event nears in early December. Teams have played their first handful of tournament games and the standings are starting to separate themselves.
The Los Angeles Lakers certainly separated themselves with another big win on Friday night, notching a 107-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers to move to 3-0 in round robin play. It was only the Lakers’ second road win of the season, but it puts L.A. is a remarkable position in the Western Conference Group A standings.
LeBron James led the way in big fashion for the Lakers against the Trail Blazers. The 21st-year veteran superstar posted 35 points, five rebounds and nine assists on 13-for-22 from the field and 5-of-9 from three. Anthony Davis added 16 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. It was truly a two-star night for L.A. as Davis’ dominant defense and James’ scorching offense led the way.
The Trail Blazers did their best to hang around behind a balanced attack from their starting lineup, led by Jerami Grant with 24 points. However, the Lakers simply had too much for Portland’s post-Damian Lillard roster.
The Lakers are now in sole possession of first place in Group A of the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz, who were 2-0 and tied with the Lakers, dropped their first In-Season Tournament game by losing to the Phoenix Suns 131-128. Kevin Durant and Jordan Clarkson battled it out for leading scorer, as Durant finished with 38 points and Clarkson 37.
This put the Jazz at 2-1 and gave the Suns — 1-1 — their first win of the tournament. Memphis is now the only winless team in Group A as they are stuck at 0-3 after their big loss to the Lakers earlier this week.
The Lakers are in control of their own destiny the rest of the way, as their final group stage game is against the second-place Jazz and have already taken care of business with wins against every other team in the group, two of them by wide margins to help with point differential.
The first tiebreaker is head-to-head matchups, so the Lakers still must beat the Jazz on Tuesday night to clinch Group A. If they lose, they can still potentially win the group if there’s a three-way tiebreak between them, the Jazz and Suns. The three-way tiebreaker is point differential, and the Lakers currently have a big lead in that department.
Group A Standings
1. Los Angeles Lakers: 3-0, +42 point differential
2. Utah Jazz: 2-1, +19 point differential
3. Phoenix Suns: 1-1, 0 point differential
4. Portland Trail Blazers: 1-2, -26 point differential
5. Memphis Grizzlies: 0-3, -35 point differential