African Blogtable writers share insights on NBA IST final

THE African Blogtable has brought together some of the top minds in basketball from across the continent to answer some of the most pressing questions during the 2023-24 NBA season.

The race to the NBA Cup is finally coming to an end. The first NBA In-Season Tournament (IST) final tips off on December 10 (Sunday) with a battle between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Indiana Pacers (03:30 a.m. CAT on NBA League Pass).

In a thrilling week of IST games, the last showdown takes 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?

Sindiswa Mabunda, The Big Tip Off (South Africa)

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

He puts his teammates in positions that change the game’s momentum, showing how he utilizes the depth of the young team. The Pacers have put the league on notice and Haliburton is a rising star on one of the biggest stages the NBA has to offer.


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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.

Los Angeles’ proximity to Las Vegas, will give their fans will also be key in inspiring them to victory.  Apart from LeBron James, another player to watch is forward Anthony Davis, who is athletic and a good ball handler. He also shone in the quarter-finals against the Suns.

My breakout player of the tournament is Tyrese Haliburton, who is propelling the NBA’s best offence with the Indiana Pacers. Despite not having playoff experience, he has managed to handle pressure and played a key role in the Pacers’ undefeated run. His stats have been phenomenal as Haliburton has been the only player in the NBA averaging at least 25 points and 11 assists a night this season.

Damas Sikawubo, The New Times (Rwanda)

I am betting on the Los Angeles Lakers. Powered by LeBron James, the Lakers remain unbeaten, and I don’t think the Indiana Pacers will change that.

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 Ham’s boys work on closing out games, the title could head to California.

Austin Reaves stands out as my breakout player, as for stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James, they will do their thing in the final.

James has been making and breaking records for over two decades, but the fun part of the In-Season Tournament is its newness and he has a chance to set 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 has to show up to the party, for such aspirations to come to reality.

Photo: (credit NBAE/Getty Images)

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