Sports

African Blogtable: The In-Season Tournament Final Predictions


NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 8 – The African Blogtable brings together some of the top basketball minds from across the continent to answer some of the league’s most pressing questions during the 2023-24 NBA season.

The Race to the NBA Cup is finally coming to an end.  The NBA will tip off the league’s first In-Season Tournament (IST) Final on December 10, 2023, with the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the Indiana Pacers at 03:30 a.m. CAT on NBA League Pass.

In what has been a thrilling week of IST games the tournament has been a culmination of 66 games to date that began November 3 with just one last showdown remaining set to take place in Las Vegas.

The IST Final will feature two players from Africa, the Pacers’ Oscar Tshiebwe from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Lakers’ Rui Hachimura (Japan) with ties to Benin.  

  • The NBA In-Season Tournament (IST) champions will be crowned this weekend. What are your predictions going into the final?
  • Your breakout player of the tournament?

Alex Isaboke, Capital FM (Kenya): Even though the Lakers aren’t firing on all cylinders to start the 2023-24 season, this is their chance to stamp their authority by winning an early title.

 Thanks to Los Angeles’ proximity to Las Vegas, their fans will also be key in inspiring them to victory.  Apart from LeBron, another player to watch is forward Anthony Davis, who is athletic and good in handling the ball and having shone in the quarters against the Suns.

My breakout player of the tournament? I will go with Tyrese Haliburton, who is propelling the NBA’s best offense with the Indiana Pacers. Despite not having the experience of featuring in the playoffs, he has managed to the handle pressure and played a key role in the Pacers undefeated run. His stats don’t lie if it is anything to go by being the only player in the NBA averaging at least 25 points and 11 assists a night this season.

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Damas Sikawubo, The New Times (Rwanda): I am giving my full bet to the Lakers. Powered by LeBron James, the Lakers remain unbeaten, and the trend doesn’t look to revert with the New Orleans Pelicans.

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My prediction for the Lakers to win is not just attributed to LeBron, who, in my view, had a strong performance in the inaugural tournament, but the whole group.

The Lakers earned the top seed in the West by going unbeaten in the group stage of the inaugural tournament, and should Darvin’s boys work on closing out games, the title could be well presented to the Lakers.

Austin Reaves stands out as my breakout player. Anthony Davis will do his thing, and LeBron James.

James has been making and breaking records for over two decades now, but part of the fun of the In-Season Tournament is that it is so new that he has a chance to set initial records that other players will one day aspire to break.

Through five games, he ranks ninth in the tournament in total points (131), fourth in assists (41), fifth in steals (nine) and 16th in rebounds (40).

Austin Reaves will be expected to show up to the party, for such aspirations to come to reality.

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Sindiswa Mabunda, The Big Tip Off (South Africa):

Indiana Pacers combo-guard Tyrese Haliburton is my breakout player of the IST.  He has been phenomenal, making pivotal plays in the opening game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and leading a second-half comeback against the Boston Celtics, the second-best defensive team in the league. Haliburton’s playmaking abilities shone in the quarterfinals where he secured his first career triple-double, helping his young Pacers team secure a huge win against Boston.

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He can put his teammates in positions that change the momentum of the game, showing how he utilizes the depth of the young team. Though it may be a long shot for Indiana to win the NBA title this season, Haliburton’s performances against top-tier teams like Boston and Philadelphia 76ers have put the entire league on notice. He is a rising star on one of the biggest stages the NBA has to offer.





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