The Indiana Pacers simply had to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, for Roy Hibbert if nothing else. The big fella came through with a monumental effort that lifted the Pacers to a 98-96 win, their second in as many tries at Staples Centers, handing the Lakers just their second home loss of the season.
The Pacers center broke his nose early in the game which put the Pacers in a hole as they struggled to match up with the lengthy Lakers lineup. At one point in the first quarter, the Pacers had George Hill guarding Kobe Bryant, Tyler Hansbrough on Pau Gasol and David West battling Andrew Bynum.
The Pacers looked like smurfs as they tried to defend the Lakers and couldn't do so without drawing fouls by the bunches. After the Lakers finished the first quarter on a 15-4 run to lead 27-14, it seemed as though it was one of those nights where absolutely nothing would go the Pacers' way.
Then Roy Hibbert returned to the court in the second quarter. No mask, just a crooked beak and gauze stuffing his nose to slow down the bleeding.
Oh, and he didn't return to lose.
Hibbert's presence seemed to energize his teammates as they picked up the pace in the second quarter, making 12 of 18 shots, stopped fouling and started playing. When David West knocked down a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the half, the Pacers had outscored the Lakers 35-25 in the second quarter and were down just three at the break.
The second half was all about blood and guts as the Pacers spilled both while staying in position to win and then making the plays at winning time to earn the win. In fact, play had to be stopped a few times to handle the blood spilled by Hibbert and Danny Granger.
The lead swapped hands a few times in the second half but the Lakers led the bulk of the time and were up three points with two minutes to go. Then Hibbert capped off a magnificent effort by knocking down a jump hook and then after a stop at the other end, Hibbert worked out of the post to find a cutting Darren Collison who finished the play at the rim and gave the Pacers a 94-93 lead.
The Pacers continued denying the Lakers at the defensive end and eventually put the game away at the free throw line, closing out the win with a 7-0 run until Gasol scored a meaningless dunk at the buzzer. Huge win, huge plays and while Hibbert gets much of the praise for his effort AND execution, there were plenty of other big performances.
Check out more thoughts after the jump.
- The Pacers shot 7 for 25 (28%) in the first quarter but came back strong at the offensive end for the rest of the game, making 29 of 52 (55.8%) over the final three quarters. 84 points on 52 shot attempts? Not bad.
- The front court matchup was a challenge for the Pacers and their stars came through huge. Hibbert finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists in 27 minutes while David West was forced to play nearly 40 minutes and added 15 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists while guarding several different Lakers.
- Danny Granger shook off a poor shooting start to finish the game with 16 points and 5 rebounds. Granger also came up big on the defensive end with three blocks, two coming over to help on Bynum. Actually, he also cleanly blocked Matt Barnes one other time, but was called for a foul. Granger also hauled in a key rebound after Kobe Bryant's three-point attempt to tie the game bounced off the rim.
- The backcourt hung tough all night while having to deal with Kobe Bryant who ended the game with 33 points and 8 rebounds. Paul George did a good job chasing him and with help, made things tough on Bryant down the stretch. George Hill really struggled early to guard the bigger Bryant, but made plays of his own to help the Pacers rally in the second quarter.
- Collison finished the game with 12 points and 7 assists which included making two clutch free throws to put the Pacers up three with nine seconds left in the game.
- The Lakers didn't get much help from the former Pacers on the roster, Josh McRoberts made a few plays but didn't score, while Troy Murphy knocked down a trademark trailer three-pointer from the top of the key for old time's sake.
- Metta World Peace had a strong game off the bench with 11 points and seemed to enjoy guarding fellow New Yorker, Lance Stephenson. On the television broadcast, Quinn Buckner called him Ron Artest at the start of the game and then refused to use Metta World Peace. Buckner settled on calling him MWP as a compromise with his trademark chuckle, of course.
- The Pacers wrap up the road trip with a 2-1 record and face the Southeast Division leading Orlando Magic.