For an Indiana Pacers team struggling to find positives in the midst of an eight game losing streak, tonight's first half against the Los Angeles Lakers proved just the antidote the Pacers were looking for. The Pacers bucked recent slow starts, using a 10-0 to move ahead 14-2. Had that been it, the Pacers would've been pleased, but high energy Pacers play combined with poor Lakers shooting pushed Indiana into the near stratosphere in the first half.
The Pacers moved ahead 24-4, then 41-17, then 58-19, eventually leading 60-21 with one minute remaining in the first half. The Lakers hit a pair of threes to end the half to close the gap to 33, but the Pacers were in control of the game due to a woeful half by the Lakers, where they shot 16.6% on 7-43 shooting. Indiana ruled on stops and in transition, running over the worn Lakers.
In the third quarter, a greater sense of urgency pushed the Lakers back into the game, helped along by nine Indiana turnovers in the quarter, the Lakers trimmed the 33 point deficit to 19 with 3:36 left in the quarter. Indiana got back on track, closing the third on a 14-2 run to minimize the damage done in the quarter. Indiana moved back up by as many as 32 in the fourth quarter, but a four minute scoring drought opened up a late opportunity for the Lakers to score 11 answered, but the Pacers responded to ice away the game, wrapping up a much needed 110-91 victory.
Though the Pacers scored a season high 60 points in the first half, their success wasn't so much on their play as much it was how unspeakably poor the Lakers played. Before hitting their last two threes for the half, the Lakers were shooting just 12.2% with 21 points. Their energy was nonexistent, allowing Indiana to keep the Lakers one and done and push the game in transition for easy buckets.
It makes their second half performance, where they were outscored 66-50 a little more forgiving, considering Indiana continued to play relatively well in responding to runs by the Lakers. Indiana shot 48% on the night, six points above their woeful season average, though continued to leave plenty on the floor in both halves. But Indiana did a fantastic job limiting and frustrating Kobe Bryant, who scored a game high 21 points on 8-26 shooting, nearly getting tossed for frustration towards the officials.
Indiana received numerous positives contributions on the night, especially from C.J. Miles, who scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half shooting 6-10 from the floor. Miles wound up 8-16 on the night, but with three three pointers has pieced together a string of solid games that hopefully doesn't rotate back towards the poor side of things any time soon.
Rodney Stuckey played strong as well, eyeing a triple double early. He fell short on assists, but wound up with his second straight double double of 20 points and 10 rebounds, shaking Bryant on defense, fighting hard for rebounds, and dishing out seven assists, all while getting to the free throw line 10 times. Stuckey's contributions have also been up and down, but efforts like tonight go a long way in helping his case as a key asset for the Pacers on the season.
Roy Hibbert and David West played solid tonight as well, offering up 10 points and 12 points respectively. The nature of the game in general took away opportunities for a single contributor, but all things considered, looked like positive players for what hasn't been a guarantee for either player. West had nine rebounds and Hibbert had seven.
Outside of Miles, the bench was quiet with Lavoy Allen picking up nine rebounds, but neither him nor Luis Scola found much success on the offensive end of the floor with their jumpers, though they did combine for 15 points. Donald Sloan, however, was Indiana's catalyst in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the final period to help keep the Lakers and their late pushes at bay.
Even despite Indiana entering on an eight game losing streak, tonight's game was one they needed to come away with. The Lakers entered 3-1 in their last four, but doesn't take away that they're not a very good team. Bryant has very little non-Nick Young (18 points) support, which isn't a great sign considering Young isn't a reliable second option.
So for Indiana to put the game into the win column early and respond to both of the Lakers' second half runs was a great sign and hopefully one that finds some consistency moving forward, though they'll be tested on that hopeful consistency with another road trip out West. The Pacers will play the other Los Angeles team at the Staples Center on Wednesday when they face the Clippers.
Indiana played the Clippers well in their meeting at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but the difference in talent proved too much for Indiana to overcome, setting up an equally tall task to open this three game trip. Indiana snapped one losing streak tonight, but have also lost six straight road games, another streak that will have to win with five of Indiana's next six on the road.