The Rundown: Bucks, Lakers advance to In-Season Tournament semis

Published December 6, 2023, 3:00 PMPolo Bustamante

The Bucks and Lakers took care of their respective quarterfinal matches to book their tickets to Las Vegas.


Bucks 146, Knicks 122

Lakers 106, Suns 103

What went down

The Milwaukee Bucks and the LA Lakers punched their tickets to Las Vegas after winning their quarterfinal matchups of the first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament.

It was a shootout in the Midwest and the Bucks came out on top. Both New York and Milwaukee came out with guns blazing, scoring more than 35 points each in the first two quarters. Unfortunately for the Knicks, the Bucks just had more ammo.

Milwaukee continued to burn through the nets in the second half, scoring 71 points after their 75-point outburst in the first half. The Knicks could only manage 50 points in the second half. The Milwaukee barrage from beyond the arc was just too much for New York to handle.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 35 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds. Damian Lillard backed him up with 28 points and five triples. Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, and RJ Barrett combined for 88 points but that still wasn’t enough to get the W.

Out in the West, LeBron James outdueled Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns in an exciting matchup that went down the wire. Down by one with less than six minutes left in the game, King James took over to lead the Lakers to the win. 

He assisted on an Anthony Davis layup that gave the lead back to the Lakers. He followed that up with a strong drive to the hoop resulting in two freebies. James then drilled a jumper and scored on another shot inside to give LA a five-point lead with 2:20 left on the clock. 

The Suns battled back, getting to within one after four straight points from Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. But Austin Reaves drilled a big three-pointer to give his team a four-point cushion. The Lakers got the stops they needed to secure the win.

James delivered 31 points, 11 rebounds, and eight rebounds. Davis had 27 points and 15 boards while Reaves finished with 20. Durant led the Suns with 31 points while Booker had 21.

Big-time baller

James looked like he really, really, really wanted to go to Vegas. He just turned on a switch in the fourth quarter and became the best player in a game that featured Durant, Booker, and Davis.

Oh, he also did it on the defensive end as well, finishing the game with five steals.

What he said

Usually, during this time of the season, teams are just droning along, waiting for the All-Star Break. But the In-Season Tournament has given teams something to fight for before the battle for the NBA Championship. James summed it up nicely.

It’s safe to say that the first In-Season Tournament has been a success so far.

Did you see that?

Antetokounmpo was putting up 27-8-6 in the In-Season Tournament so far. Predict his stat line now that he knows there’s some money involved.

Extra Pass

While the final four teams take a break, the rest of the league resumes regular season play with a whopping 11-game slate. The most interesting matchup of the day features the Denver Nuggets and the LA Clippers.

The Nuggets have struggled to get into a rhythm to kick off their title defense. An injury to Jamal Murray, plus the loss of key players to free agency, has them thinner than usual. Nikola Jokic is still playing at an MVP level, and that’s keeping them afloat. But they can’t get rolling like they did last season. 

They’ve had three separate four-game winning runs, but can’t get past four. They’re looking to bounce back after their loss to the Sacramento Kings, and start another winning streak in this matchup against the Clippers.

The Clippers are also a team that needs to go on a long winning run, but for totally different reasons. Unlike the Nuggets, they’re currently out of the playoff picture and have alternated wins and losses in their last five games. 

The six-game losing streak they were on after the James Harden trade really put them in a hole that they’re slowly trying to climb out of. A win against the Nuggets not only starts a winning streak, it also should give the team confidence that they can hang with the best in the West.

This juicy Western Conference matchup is live on NBA League Pass at 11:00 AM.