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Bucks-Pacers, Lakers-Pelicans in Las Vegas for NBA tournament semifinals

LAS VEGAS — The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks are used to being on the NBA's biggest stages, both of those teams having won championships in the last four seasons.

The Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans haven't often found themselves in that spotlight.

That foursome — a pair of championship contenders, a pair of up-and-coming clubs — is probably the ideal grouping for the final four at the NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament. The semifinals in Las Vegas are Thursday, with Indiana facing Milwaukee and New Orleans then taking on the Lakers.

Combined record of those teams in this tournament: 19-1.

“I just want to win,” Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton said. “Whatever it takes to do that, that's what I'm going to do.”

Thursday's games count as regular season games. The championship game on Saturday does not.

There's also a big financial incentive to win in Las Vegas. By making the semifinals, all players on standard contracts have assured themselves of $100,000 from the league's tournament prize pool; players on two-way deals get half of the standard-contract share.

That figure goes to $200,000 each with a semifinal win, and $500,000 each for the players on the team that wins the title on Saturday. And even for players like the Lakers' LeBron James — the league's all-time leading scorer — these games are significant.

“I continue to have this battle with Father Time, that for so long everybody has said has been undefeated,” James said. “I'm trying to give him one loss.”

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