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Carlisle: Pacers set to play 'prime' LeBron for In-Season Tournament title

Ethan Miller / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle didn't hold back his admiration when discussing Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James ahead of their In-Season Tournament championship battle on Saturday.

"LeBron James is in his prime still," Carlisle told reporters on Friday. "I'm watching the guy (Thursday) night, and it's just phenomenal."

James went off against the New Orleans Pelicans in the semifinals, dropping 30 points, five rebounds, and eight assists on 9-of-12 shooting, and a perfect 4-of-4 from deep. He was a sparkling +36 in the victory.

The Pacers have their own superstar in point guard Tyrese Haliburton, though. He's been outstanding in the team's two upset elimination wins over the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 26.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 14.0 assists while accumulating zero turnovers.

Almost prophetically, the young, upstart Pacers will stare down the Lakers and the league's oldest and greatest player for the NBA's first in-season title. Carlisle, for his part, is excited about the opportunity.

"We've got our hands full," the bench boss said. "But if you're the Indiana Pacers, and you're in the process of making the climb, and you want a great experience, this is the kind of challenge that you've got to love."

Los Angeles and Indiana are set to square off at 8:30 p.m. ET on Saturday in Las Vegas.

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