Poll: Which Teams Will Win In-Season Tournament Semifinals?

The semifinals of the NBA’s first-ever in-season tournament will be played on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with the winners advancing to Saturday’s final.

It’s a safe bet the early game will be a shootout. The high-octane Pacers have the NBA’s best offensive rating by a significant margin at 123.6. But they give up plenty of points too — their 120.2 defensive rating ranks 28th in the league, ahead of only Charlotte and Washington.

The Bucks are poised to take advantage of the holes in Indiana’s defense. Milwaukee’s 119.2 offensive rating is the NBA’s third-best mark and the group has been firing on all cylinders as of late, putting up 132 points on Saturday vs. Atlanta and a season-high 146 in Tuesday’s quarterfinal victory over New York.

Tyrese Haliburton has perhaps been the breakout star of the in-season tournament, but he and the Pacers will be underdogs against a Bucks squad led by superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. BetOnline.ag currently lists Milwaukee as 5.5-point favorites.

Still, Indiana knocked off Boston in the quarterfinals and will perhaps benefit from what should be a neutral crowd in Las Vegas. The Pacers have a winning record away from home this season, while the Bucks are a modest 5-5 on the road.

The Lakers, on the other hand, may have a home-court edge in Thursday’s late game, given Vegas’ proximity to Los Angeles and the franchise’s sizable fan base. But they’re only favored by two points against a Pelicans team that’s as healthy now as it has been in quite some time.

While both Los Angeles and New Orleans have had to deal with injury issues during the first quarter of the 2023/24 season, they’re nearly at full strength heading into Thursday’s semifinal, with only Gabe Vincent expected to be out of action for L.A., while the Pelicans are just missing reserves Larry Nance Jr. and Matt Ryan.

Forwards LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram – along with guard CJ McCollum – are the headliners in this matchup, and a superstar-type performance from one or two of them could ultimately decide the game, but the Lakers’ and Pelicans’ supporting casts shouldn’t be overlooked. Role players like D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, and Trey Murphy are capable of being game-changing X-factors.

What do you think? Which two teams will prevail on Thursday and meet in the first-ever in-season tournament final on Saturday?

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