Pacers’ Halliburton eyes victory over 'Idol’ LeBron, Lakers for NBA Cup

LAS VEGAS — In the march to the title game of the NBA in-season tournament, the Indiana Pacers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks — the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season.

Now, Indiana finds itself up against the Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James In Saturday’s title game, with the right to be the first team to hoist the NBA trophy on the line — a scenario Dyers Halliburton He says the last few months have felt like a storybook ending to Indiana’s coming out party.

„Like any kid born in 2000, LeBron was my favorite player growing up,” Halliburton said Friday afternoon after practice at T-Mobile Arena in Indiana, „and it’s hard for a lot of us not to be him. Growing up, I was a Cavs fan, then a I was a Heat fan, then a Cavs fan again, then a Lakers fan.

“Competing against him in a championship is like a storybook [ending] Little by little, it would be a lot of fun. But that’s the crux of being in the NBA, competing against your idols night after night. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Pacers have been looking forward to this tournament since the start, seeing it as an opportunity to put themselves on the national NBA radar after missing the playoffs the past four seasons — and Halliburton, individually, to launch himself to superstardom. Made his first All-Star appearance last season and played for Team USA’s FIBA ​​World Cup entry this summer.

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And so far, it’s been accomplished on that front, as the Pacers have upended every big-name player and opponent that comes their way in the past few days, upsetting both the Celtics and the Bucks to earn their spot in Saturday’s title game. game.

There’s nothing bigger in the NBA than going up against James and the Lakers, who dismantled the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night behind another classic performance from James, who turns 39 later this month.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle has seen James in big moments before, most notably in the 2011 NBA Finals, when his Dallas Mavericks beat James and the Miami Heat to win the NBA title, and he couldn’t be more impressed with how James was playing. 21st NBA season.

„LeBron James is still in his prime,” Carlisle said. „I was watching the guy last night and it was amazing. This guy — somebody gave me a stat. He’s the only player in NBA history to be the youngest player in the league and the oldest player in the league. , both. That obviously speaks to an amazing run of longevity and greatness in his case. .

„He’s the all-time leading scorer, and if there’s a Mount Rushmore, he’s one of the guys on the NBA Mount Rushmore. That’s what we’re up against tomorrow. We’re up against him and Anthony Davis And a lot of really good players, now competitively on real footing.

„We’ve got our hands full. But if you’re an Indiana Pacer, if you’re into climbing, if you want a great experience, this is the challenge you want.”

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It has been a challenge that the fast bowlers have repeatedly accepted throughout the tournament. For a young team with many players — Halliburton in particular — waiting to play in the playoffs for the first time, getting to the postseason is set as the goal this team hopes to achieve this season.

Indiana believes that going through this experience and defeating the elite teams the Pacers have to reach this point served the dual purpose of both putting Indiana on the map and preparing this team for the challenges ahead.

„I think it’s a step in that direction,” the Pacers center said Miles Turner said. „I don’t think we’re fully accomplished until we reach the ultimate goal of going to the playoffs and making it there. But this is a little bit of a precursor. Guys are seeing our style of play and how exciting it is. Just watching us play. But, of course, anytime you can win a championship, It’s good for your morale, your organization, the team, the overall spirit.”

To win this weekend’s championship, James has to go through. After James said earlier this week that he was trying to give Father Time its first loss, the Pacers guard DJ McConnell He said that he is currently on the path to that.

„They’re on a roll and LeBron … Father Time is usually undefeated, but he’s beating him right now,” McConnell said. „So, he’s playing incredibly and their whole team is, so we’ve got to be locked in and ready for 48 minutes.”

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