The Indiana Pacers nearly reached a new low, seemingly content to watch the Indianapolis crowd try and cheer Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers to victory while also blowing yet another fourth quarter lead. A comfortable 17-point third quarter lead made the Pacers too comfortable, allowing the Lakers life, eventually setting up Bryant and the Lakers for one final push when Bryant scored 11 fourth quarter points to help them to an 84-80 lead with 1:25 remaining in the fourth.
Paul George would be one of the only Pacers to man up with the game in dire straits, scoring six straight as a response with four coming at the free throw line, helping Indiana avoid an otherwise ridiculous loss. George had 21 points, but the six to close the fourth were his only points of the second half. He shot just 6-18 with a team high five turnovers as Indiana turned the ball over 16 times, allowing the Lakers an extra 15 points in a game where points were at a premium.
But Indiana needed someone to come through with the game on the line, and getting away with a win was all that mattered in the end tonight. To otherwise see the Pacers lose to one of the league's worst teams, at home, in what increasingly became a Lakers home game wouldn't have been completely undeserved however for a Pacers team that appeared completely checked out all night.
Tonight's game was among the worst the NBA has to offer from the outset and the Pacers were more than content to wallow in the slop they and the Lakers created. Indiana only showed marginal interest on the defensive end for the early part of the night, helping an inept Lakers offense shoot under 30% for most of the game. Even after Bryant hit four straight shots late in the fourth, the Lakers only finished at 31.2% shooting.
But Indiana's offense was as lazy as possible, allowing the Lakers ample opportunity to stay alive with a single 12-0 run to close the third quarter. The Pacers were just as okay with jacking threes (shooting an abysmal 4-29) as they were with missing free throws. Indiana shot just 23-33 for the night, lifted thanks to big free throws to close by George and Monta Ellis.
The general malaise also took the ball away from players who may have been able to help the Pacers, such as Myles Turner. Turner was Indiana's saving grace, a quiet 14 point, 13 rebound night on 6-8 shooting, including seven fourth quarter points when no one else wanted to close out the win. Ian Mahinmi also reached double figures with 11 points despite missing the first quarter needing stitches for an open blow on his forehead in the opening seconds.
George Hill scored 15 with a pair of back-to-back threes and miraculously had six assists on a night Indiana assisted just 13 times on 31 made shots. Aside from a nine point, nine rebound night from Jordan Hill, there wasn't anything of note to come from Indiana's bench, who was outscored by Los Angeles's by 10. DeAngelo Russell somehow found the time to get up 18 shots as part of his bench best 16.
The league had to begrudgingly award a win in this excuse for a game, but at least it was Indiana that gets to claim it. The All-Star Break can't come soon enough, but one game remains as they host the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. The Hornets are back to .500 after going 7-3 in their last ten. They throttled Chicago at home tonight, so the Pacers will need to feign enough interest to avoid giving up a loss heading into the break.