The Indiana Pacers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 136-94 on Tuesday night, sweeping the back-to-back against teams currently engaged in a high-stakes game of posturing in the daily chaos that is the Anthony Davis-trade saga.
Whereas the Pelicans’ front office prevented Davis from making his return from a finger injury against the Pacers on Monday, LeBron James returned to action after sitting out the prior game for load management.
Turns out, that didn’t matter so much — at least not with him playing with a roster full of players who have heard their names in trade rumors all week.
LeBron tallied 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists, but he racked up six turnovers and was repeatedly punished for lackadaisical recovery angles and cherry picking.
The Pacers were the team playing on the second night of a back-to-back after scrapping together a win over the Pelicans, but it was the Lakers who lacked energy and appeared generally disinterested.
Indiana cut harder, worked harder (forcing 19 turnovers leading to 33 points), and flat-out played harder, holding the Lakers to below 95 points for only the third time this season.
Myles Turner and Bojan Bogdanovic were red hot to start the game, combining for 23 points in less than 10 minutes to put the Pacers up 26-21. When Brandon Ingram glided down the lane for a lay-up to pull the Lakers within two at 28-26, Indiana responded with five-straight points to take a 33-26 lead into the second quarter.
From there on out it was all Pacers, as they amassed a 23-point lead by halftime and led by as many as 30 in the third quarter while the Lakers lightly gripped at straws until LeBron retired to the bench in the fourth quarter and the clock mercifully put them out of their misery.
Here are four observations from the game...
Bojan Bogdanovic picked back up where he left off in Miami, scoring the first 10 points of the game for the Pacers for a quick 10-2 lead. In less than three minutes of action, the Croatian sharpshooter made good on the team’s opening back cut set, kissed a mid-range shot off the glass, and drained two threes. It was once again a showcase of his well-rounded scoring ability, as well as a departure from the 11-0 deficits they notched against Orlando and New Orleans.
“Bogey,” Turner said when asked what keyed the team’s better start. “He got hot. He set the tone for everybody, and we sort of just fell in line.”
The Pacers had been the league’s worst first quarter team over the last six games headed into tonight.
Myles Turner dominated the match-up with Ivica Zubac
With Zubac hanging back and playing a one-man zone in the paint, Myles Turner feasted on pocket passes and throwbacks.
“I was hurting the whole time,” Turner said of being questionable for tonight’s game with a thigh contusion. “I’m not going to lie, but I feel like at this point in the season. It’s the time you got to fight through stuff.”
Despite being in pain, Turner had 11 points in the first quarter and 8 in the second (including two threes). And yet, the Lakers didn’t make an adjustment until after halftime when the game was already well out of hand.
Lately, more and more teams have trended toward having their centers check Thaddeus Young. Sometimes their motivation is solely to prevent their behemoth rim protector from being put into pick-and-pop situations and dragged into space, and other times it’s about forcing the Pacers into resets with the mere threat of an unfavorable switch on the ball.
The Pacers run screen-and-roll on 9.8 percent of their possessions, which is the highest rate in the league. When genetic-freaks like Ben Simmons or LeBron James defend the five-man as the screener, Indiana’s guards tend to get out of sorts. They’ll start thinking out loud, motioning for and then waving off screens until they arrive at a more workable match-up or settle for a late-clock isolation.
All of which results in Turner being marginalized in the offense.
None of that happened tonight, as the 22-year-old shot-blocker with the silky jumper scored 22 points on 12 shots with only two free throw attempts.
He was in beast mode, balancing his outside and inside scoring with four huge blocks.
No Tired Legs and Tight Rims, Here
The Pacers hit a season-high 19 3-pointers.
Over the six games prior to tonight’s contest, Aaron Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Cory Joseph, and Edmond Sumner had gone a combined 11-of-91 (12 percent) from long-range.
They were 11-of-16 tonight.
The game slowed down for Aaron Holiday and Edmond Sumner
With 2.4 seconds left in the first quarter, Edmond Sumner inbounded the ball to Domantas Sabonis and quickly got it back with just enough time to get off a three from beyond 30-feet.
Without an opportunity to second-guess himself, he drained it. The expiring clock turned out to be a blessing in disguise; and the made shot, a confidence booster, as the 6-foot-6 slasher finished the night 3-of-4 from three and captured some of the improved accuracy he had demonstrated with the Mad Ants.
Sumner knocked down 40 percent of his triples in 17 games with Fort Wayne, a considerable improvement over the 28 percent clip he registered for his career at Xavier.
Since joining the rotation with the Pacers, he was 0-of-10 until that buzzer beater opened the lid and paved the way for 17 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Holiday made strides, too.
In the wake of Oladipo’s season-ending injury, the 22-year-old rookie has at times struggled with being assertive versus creating for others.
On this possession, instead of shooting a challenged runner against a collapsed defense, he dished the ball to Joseph for a wide open three.
Firing on all cylinders in a 3-point scoring barrage, the Pacers opened the six-game homestand with a bang and made Chris Denari’s 1000th broadcast with Fox Sports Indiana a memorable one.