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Lakers beat Suns to make NBA in-season tournament semifinal

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LeBron James scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns 106-103 on Tuesday night to claim the last semifinal position in the inaugural NBA mid-season tournament.

The top-seeded Lakers, led by Anthony Davis’ 27 points and 15 rebounds, will meet the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday in Las Vegas. In the East semifinals, the Milwaukee Bucks will face the Indiana Pacers. The final game will take place on Saturday, with the winner receiving the NBA Cup.

“You’ve got some of the most alpha male competitors in the world, and if you give us an opportunity to play for something meaningful or an incentive, then you get what you’re getting,” said James, who also had 11 assists, eight rebounds, and five steals. “The in-season tournament is what it is, and we have an opportunity to play on a big stage, be on national television, represent our families, our communities, where we come from.”

Down the stretch, James put on a magnificent shooting display. As Los Angeles seized the lead, the 21-year-old veteran scored 15 of the Lakers’ first 19 points in the fourth quarter and assisted on his teammates’ other two baskets.

Kevin Durant led the Suns in scoring with 31, but he missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. ​Phoenix has won eight of its previous ten games before falling to Los Angeles for the third time this season.

With 29 seconds left, Devin Booker trimmed the Lakers’ lead to 102-101, but Reaves answered with his third 3-pointer.

Following another layup by Durant, the Suns were enraged when referees granted James’ request for a timeout when the ball seemed to be loose since Booker had pushed it away from Reaves an instant earlier

“It’s a loose ball, and you can’t call a timeout on a loose ball,” stated Phoenix coach Frank Vogel. “The whistle goes off. I’m not sure why. Everything in the league may be reviewed. I’m not sure why that can’t be reviewed. We got the turnover, we got the trap, and now the darn whistle sounds. It’s just annoying.”

Reaves believes Booker fouled him a moment before the timeout was called.

“There was no call, and LeBron made a high-IQ play he’s made a million times,” Reaves was quoted as saying.

Durant didn’t share his coach’s displeasure with the call, stating he didn’t feel the ball was loose when the timeout was called.

“That’s not the ballgame,” Durant remarked. “That’s just one play.” The game lasts 48 minutes. I don’t enjoy complaining about phone calls. Sometimes the ref isn’t going to get it right every time. It’s sometimes up to us to play through all of that and not worry about putting the game in the hands of the ref.”

 

After the break, Davis was fouled, but he missed one of two free throws, setting up Durant’s potential game-tying 30-footer.

 

Phoenix’s Booker and Grayson Allen both scored 21 points.

 

The Lakers won the top seed in the West by going undefeated in the first tournament’s group round, including a win Nov. 10 at Phoenix. The Suns recovered from that defeat to earn a wild-card position in the playoffs.

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