NBA in-season tournament: LeBron James leads Lakers' blowout of Pelicans, will face Pacers in championship game

LeBron James has said he wants to own an NBA team in Las Vegas. He got a chance to see what it felt like during the NBA in-season tournament semifinals.

The Los Angeles Lakers rolled through the New Orleans Pelicans 133-89 on Thursday to set up a championship game against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks hours earlier to continue an unexpected run in the inaugural event.

The championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN2).

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates after making a 3-point basket against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of a semifinal in the NBA basketball In-Season Tournament, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ian Maule)
LeBron James made the Pelicans look unserious in the semifinals of the NBA in-season tournament. (AP Photo/Ian Maule) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The later game looked on its way to another close one until James showed why so many people are still arguing over whether he's the greatest player of all time. At age 38, he posted 18 points in the second quarter on 6-of-8 shooting (3-of-3 from 3-point range) as the Lakers went from trailing by a point at the start of the frame to leading by 13 at halftime.

Those 3-pointers came from progressively deeper and eventually from all the way up from the half-court logo:

The third quarter saw even more carnage. For all the hope that the in-season tournament would deliver a playoff atmosphere, it just wasn't a serious basketball game. The Lakers reeled off individual runs of 7-0, 14-0 and 8-0 to enter the fourth quarter with a 110-71 lead.

James didn't bother staying in uniform for the final 17 minutes of the game. He finished with 30 points on 9-of-12 shooting (4-of-4 from deep) with eight assists, five rebounds, zero turnovers and a team-high +36 rating in only 23 minutes. Five other members of the Lakers were in double-digit scoring one minute into the fourth quarter.

The good news for the Pelicans is their players and coaches will receive $100,000 just for making it to Vegas. Meanwhile, the Lakers and Pacers are now all guaranteed $200,000 each and will be playing to bump that figure up to a half-million dollars.