Despite breaking their own NBA season low with just four turnovers and breaking their own NBA season high with 63 rebounds, the Indiana Pacers weren't at their best against the Los Angeles Lakers, but they got back to what they do best; putting opponents in difficult positions and stifling their ability to score. The Pacers were just at 42.4% on the night offensively, making five three pointers and going a sad 55.6% from the free throw line, but for all of their own woes, they made sure the Lakers were feeling it on the other end, as they forced the Lakers under 40%, clamping down in the second half to drop them from the 48% they had at the break.
Indiana had themselves in good shape early, limiting Los Angeles to 19 first quarter points, but the Lakers found success offensively in the second quarter, scoring 30 as the game took on a back-and-forth nature, with seven lead changes and five ties in the quarter alone. Indiana broke a halftime tie with a 10-2 run, forcing the Lakers into an 0-5 start with just two free throws. LA pushed back throughout the third quarter, but a 5-0 run to close the third quarter, including a Paul George buzzer beater, gave Indiana a double digit advantage the Lakers were unable to come back from.
The Pacers would move the game to as many as 16 before closing out the win and clinching a 3-2 record in their second and final Western road trip. The win moves the Pacers to 35-9, but with the road weariness setting in, there's no doubt the team benefited from their opponent as much as they were able to come away with the win. The Lakers' struggles are well documented, and they just didn't appear equipped to outlast Indiana across 48 minutes despite their stronger stretches. But that's hardly a swipe at Indiana, who needed some kind of positive showing to take home with them after a poor three game stretch across the middle of this trip.
David West was a big part of jump starting the Pacers, as he made it a point to make Ryan Kelly's life miserable, scoring seven of Indiana's first nine points en route to a team high 19 points on 8-14 shooting. West was also 3-3 at the line, one of just two Pacers to boast perfect free throw nights on a 15-27 showcase. West also had eight rebounds. Without West's success early, this game had a real chance of going in Los Angeles's favor much in the same way the loss to Denver did, but his ability to carry the team with George's ability to find him helped shift the tides in Indiana's favor.
George on the other hand needed all the help he could get tonight, as he bricked his way to a 4-21 shooting night. There were concerns early about his shooting, and he was just never able to get anything to go, pretty much from anywhere, except a buzzer beating three to close the third quarter, but of course he'll hit maybe the most difficult shot he took all night. It wasn't just jumpers, George was missing from inside as well and it crept into his free throw shooting on a 5-9 night from the line. George did find ways to help the team from other places, picking up an 11 point, five rebound, six assist, and two steal night.
It wasn't a homecoming George was looking for, but it's far more important that the team come away with the win. That win was really helped along by Lance Stephenson, who scored a career best 14 rebounds as part of a 15 point, 14 rebound double double. Stephenson once again found his success attacking the rim on 6-9 shooting, even getting to the line nine times, but leading Indiana's free throw woes at 3-9. Despite Stephenson's success on offense, there certainly appeared to be a lack of step defensively at times, despite coming up with two steals on the night.
George Hill was also solid in a 6-9 night for 13, grabbing seven boards, as he got plenty of help off the bench from C.J. Watson, who scored nine points six of them in the fourth quarter as the bench helped push the Pacers towards the win. The bench was solid, extending the lead early in the fourth and getting solid contributions especially from Ian Mahinmi, who spelled Roy Hibbert tremendously. Mahinmi grabbed four offensive rebounds, dropping in five.
He and Hibbert each grabbed four as the Pacers totaled 17 offensive rebounds which made up a bulk of Indiana's +13 in rebounding. Hibbert had 10 rebounds on the night as part of his 11 & 10 double double, shooting a respectable 5-11 from the floor and looking to have his soft touch going in his favor. Danny Granger had a bench high 10 points, but struggled on just 3-10 shooting but hit a pair of three pointers and had six rebounds, three offensive. Luis Scola also continues to struggle with his midrange shot, going 4-11 for eight points, pulling in six rebounds.
Considering how frustrating the type of play was against Phoenix, Sacramento, and Denver, it was a relief to not only see the Pacers play to their strengths as opposed to getting swept up in their opponents', but to see Indiana not allow a highly efficient output from an opposing player. Jodie Meeks and Pau Gasol each had 21 to lead the Lakers, but Meeks was a less than stellar 7-16, hitting just two three pointers, and Gasol was simply a steady 10-19. The Pacers wrap up a respectable 3-2 out West, moving them to 35-9 on the season.
They'll come home for a Thursday night tipoff against the Phoenix Suns. It's a revenge game for Indiana, who was reeling for two games after getting run out of the US Airways Center, but it's also a 7 PM ET tipoff. While there are no more excuses to stay up late to watch the Pacers, there are plenty of excuses to keep an eye on this team as they push towards the All-Star Break. And with the All-Star reserves being announced as well on Thursday, there will hopefully be plenty of All-Star representation for the league best Pacers.