USA TODAY Sports
Indiana folded late without timely defensive stops to suffer a bad loss.
The Indiana Pacers struggled late getting enough stops, the Los Angeles Lakers using a 7-0 run to put the game away, playing without Kobe Bryant for the final three quarters after Kobe himself was held scoreless. That's bad enough, but when looking at the Lakers' 13-26 three point shooting, it was easy to see how they came up with a W. The Lakers got nine three alone from Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison, who each just rolled through the Pacers' defense with every shot they shot up.
Add in a late Dwight Howard three point play, and the Lakers, in a crucial stretch after a 79-79 tie, forced the Pacers into tough situation with four plays of three points in the final six minutes. Overall, there wasn't a big issue with the Pacers getting stops, but it was what they allowed to go in that really added up. Essentially, what it comes down to, is a lack of ability to execute for the Pacers in recent games. Since a really gutsy win in Memphis back in January, the Pacers have been a pitiful 1-7 in games decided within ten points. For those keeping track, they're 13-1 in double digit games in that time.
This game probably shouldn't have come down to it, but that seems to be a common theme in just about every loss lately. Guys came up big in Kobe's absence, five Lakers reached 15 points. The Pacers had 17 offensive rebounds and 21 extra shots (though an extra 21 free throw attempts for the Lakers can skew that a little), but an inability to get to 40% for the night really put them in a bad position, especially early, when they couldn't pounce on a horrible Laker shooting start, only leading by 11, and watching that lead turn into an 11-point Los Angeles advantage instead.
It all came crashing down on the Pacers when someone was there every single time. First it was Jamison, then it was Howard, then Metta World Peace, then Blake. Yeah, this game was pretty disgusting thinking about it. George Hill had 27 points against Steve Nash, but he was the only guy who was consistently there all night. Paul George had 20, but needed 20 shots to get there. Roy HIbbert had foul trouble all night, but was mostly ineffective offensively when he was in there, going 3-12, with one of those a shot clock beating three pointer.
Lance Stephenson looked like a huge advantage early, but was held in check in the second half, spending most of the time making bad play after bad play, despite a pretty blatant flop that gave Howard his fourth foul in the third quarter. But Mike D'Antoni's decision to leave Howard in with four fouls paid off, only picking up one more foul the rest of the night. David West struggled defensively keeping up with the spread forwards and had a 4-13 night to show for it.
The bench brought solid minutes for Indiana's bench, which equates to not being enough to actually make a difference, though honorable mentions go to Ian Mahinmi and Sam Young, who each brought enough positives to a bad situation to at least gloss over the obvious 37-19 bench advantage for Los Angeles. There's no easy way to say everything about this loss (sans George Hill, I suppose) absolutely stinks, the least of which had to do with the Lakers doing all of this without Kobe Bryant.
In fact, very little of this loss feels like a Lakers thing at all, unless of course that's a personal vendetta, then it's all good to take frustrations in that direction. It just felt like a rehash of the same thing Pacers fans have seen for every close game recently, and it's getting tiring to see this team repeatedly lack efficient execution late or not be able to come up with the key stop that will win you a game. But what can the Pacers do besides simply put themselves in situations like that to work on overcoming it? It's maddening, more so than the Lakers getting three opportunities in the final five seconds of the first half because the referees failed to manage the clock correctly. That kind of maddening.
The Pacers have a quick turnaround tomorrow in Philadelphia, looking to get back in the winning side of things. There's plenty of time to worry about Indiana's performance in tight games and their performance against quality opponents in the future, but they have a "take care of business" test tomorrow, and they have to do exactly that.