The Indiana Pacers are in the business of "a win's a win," and showed it tonight in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers where the two teams played hot potato with the basketball and their chances at coming away with a win. But it came down to a George Hill layup bouncing on the back iron and into the hoop to seal this one. There were plenty of turnovers, plenty of fouls, plenty of Joey Crawford, plenty of missed shots, and plenty of Kobe Bryant, but it turned into one of the most exciting poorly played games you'll have the pleasure(?) of watching.
Indiana started off hot, but quickly cooled down, turning a double digit lead into a tight one, but through all of Indiana's struggles, the Lakers were never able to capitalize and get any kind of momentum going on their own, that is aside from Bryant. Kobe was the Lakers tonight, scoring 40 of the team's 77 getting 10 rebounds, but also 10 turnovers, but he was never able to put the Lakers ahead, as missed free throws and turnovers (the Lakers were 23-43 from the line with 21 turnovers) haunted them until the very end. A tough Kobe three tied it with 24 seconds to go, but George's game winner with 0.1 seconds put Indiana in the win column.
The Lakers struggled all night, but the Pacers didn't exactly give a lot of life altering inspiration themselves, shooting just 37%, giving up 15 rebounds, committing 17 turnovers, and shooting just 17-27 from the line. Crawford's imprint was all over this game, and he made it as ugly as he possibly could with the number of calls and technicals. Roy Hibbert was the only Pacer to foul out, but in his short stint, he was mostly effective, helping the Pacers early on to jump out to their double digit lead on both sides, with eight points and three blocks.
So much credit has to be given to Ian Mahinmi for stepping in and playing extremely well, getting 11 points with 10 free throw attempts. Mahinmi played the kind of game the team envisioned when they brought him in; not only maintaining size up front against Dwight Howard, who had 17, but fought through foul trouble himself and just 3-12 from the line, but also not seeing a huge drop off in overall play from Hibbert, something Mahinmi hasn't always brought to the floor this year.
Mahinmi's play salvaged a night of bench play that would best be forgotten, with a number of low IQ plays that nearly costed the Pacers the win, though Tyler Hansbrough's hustle came through a time or two with a key offensive board and a couple of trips to the free throw line. George Hill was a big part of the Pacers' play in the second half, scoring 16 of his 19, but also making the necessary plays to keep the Lakers at bay all game.
He got plenty of help from David West, who had 16 and 10 double double, falling just two assists shy of the team's second triple double of the season. Paul George played very well considering his assignment of a gunslinger Kobe, scoring 12 points and picking up nine boards, leading the team in +/- with +16.
This was the kind of game the Pacers needed to win. While the Lakers are half mast (maybe half mast at best), Indiana needed to avoid yet another late game collapse and find a way to get into the win column. Hill did just that. The win gives Indiana their third straight at Staples Center, and at least guarantees they won't blank on their four game road trip. The Pacers will have an opportunity to pull to .500 when they travel to Sacramento to face the Kings on Friday.
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