Somehow, someway the Indiana Pacers won against the Los Angeles Lakers despite taking 15 fewer shots, committing 20 turnovers, and getting thoroughly handled on the offensive glass. It’s no surprise, however, that one of the reasons they were able to prevail was thanks to play of T.J. Warren.
Warren finished with a game high 39 points, including 18 in the first quarter and another 12 in the fourth, closing out the win for the Pacers with seven points in the final 90 seconds to secure the 116-111 victory. Warren was not only his regular elite scorer tonight, but he helped seize momentum throughout the night, proving invaluable in a game that had countless swings.
The earliest swing came just after the Pacers had started out with a 10-4 lead. Myles Turner picked up his second foul, immediately opening up things inside for the Lakers, who responded with nine straight to take the lead. Warren scored his first points as a response, kickstarting a 7-0 run that put the Pacers back on top.
Ahead by two, Warren scored nine more to put Indiana ahead by double figures, eventually opening up JaKarr Sampson to cap off their 13-0 run with a pair of thunderous putback dunks to expand Indiana’s lead to 32-17. Los Angeles would slowly work their way back into the game early in the second, but Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott shook off their struggles briefly, each hitting a three to keep the Pacers ahead by double figures.
From there, the Lakers quickly closed the gap, outscoring the Pacers 16-2 to take a four point lead. LeBron James was a force to be expected, but his ease getting to the rim was able to open up things for the LA shooters, particularly Quinn Cook, to break out of their own three point shooting struggles.
Indiana was able to weather Los Angeles’s shooting thanks to some key shotmaking from Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo, scoring the final 11 of the half for Indiana to help keep them within five at the break. The Pacers were outscored 35-20 in the second quarter, struggling not only with turnovers, but in limiting LA’s ability to capitalize off of them.
The Lakers outscored Indiana 22-7 in points off turnovers in the first half while also limiting the Pacers on the glass. The Pacers had no offensive rebounds in the second quarter and just one outside of Sampson’s back-to-back jams. However, the offense was hyper efficient beyond that, allowing them to keep pace despite their obvious struggles.
Part of their struggles in the second quarter was due to Warren being completely frozen out of the offense in the second quarter. That was rectified in the third when his first shot of the second half was good from three to put the Pacers back up 62-61. The game would go back and forth for much of the quarter until Warren scored six straight to break the flow, putting the Pacers up by seven late in the quarter.
Goga Bitadze found extra minutes with Turner’s foul trouble and he stepped onto the floor to play some of his best basketball of the year, overcoming a poor first quarter to play a key defensive role in the second and third quarters, scoring all seven of his points late in the third to help keep the Indiana lead around six points heading into the fourth.
The Lakers had a response early in the fourth, outscoring the Pacers 13-3 to take a four point lead, dominating Indiana on the glass and scoring on a hard fought four point possession that lasted 35 excruciating seconds. With Indiana down four, Brogdon hit a crucial three pointer and completed a trip at the free throw line to bring them to within a point at 96-95.
From there, Warren put them on top with five straight points, Brogdon again hitting a big three in response to Cook’s fifth of the night. The game again went back and forth with Anthony Davis scoring two off a putback to put the Lakers ahead 108-107 with 1:41 remaining.
Warren had a response dialed up, however. He would hit a pair of tough buckets in the paint to put Indiana ahead by three and after a stop, he would step into a deep three to sink a dagger on the Lakers for the victory.
The Pacers did a better job in the second half limiting some of their mistakes. While the turnovers weren’t perfect, they were better at finding 50/50 balls, which extended a couple of possessions. As well, they limited the Lakers to just four second half points off turnovers, removing an easy source of offense from a Lakers team that had a very difficult time finding offense outside of James and Cook.
Warren’s 39 points on 15-22 were especially impressive when seeing his primary matchup being Davis. Davis, one of the league’s finalists for Defensive Player of the Year, didn’t find much success in limiting Warren, while also have a terrible offensive night, scoring just eight points on 3-14 shooting.
For the Pacers, timely scoring from both Brogdon and Oladipo were necessary in helping Indiana navigate the ebbs and flows of the game. Brogdon finished with 24 points, including 4-6 from three point range. All four of his triples either helped Indiana keep pace with a Lakers run or breaking a zero to one point game.
With Oladipo, he had his best bubble showing, channeling his positives against Phoenix for a really solid all-around performance, scoring 22 points, eight of those coming in the paint. The lone downside came with their turnovers, combining for 11, getting there by either trying to make too difficult a pass or simply being careless with their dribbling.
Aaron Holiday, sometimes frontcourt, sometimes backcourt, was the most effective in terms of playmaking for the starters, scoring seven and dishing seven with just a pair of turnovers. Holiday was 3-3 from the floor shooting and racked up assists by feeding Warren and helping Turner find success despite a rough night from him.
Turner, hampered with foul troubles, scored just seven on 2-8 shooting, including 0-4 from deep. He spent much of the night without a rebound, but finished the game with three, coming up with key boards late. The Pacers, who were outrebounded 15-7 on the offensive end, managed to keep pace overall, giving up just two extra rebounds for the game, partially thanks to Indiana’s 52% shooting overall.
Off the bench, T.J. McConnell helped swing the game back in the Pacers’ favor early on despite not scoring, getting four steals in the first quarter to help Indiana build their lead into double figures. His two first quarter assists also found, who else, Warren. McDermott and J. Holiday continue to struggle shooting the ball, combining for 2-8 from deep. The poor shooting was a subplot against Phoenix, but hasn’t found itself front and center just yet, though that could be a bit of an issue.
The win keeps the Pacers in fifth place, but also helps them tie up the Miami Heat for fourth in the East. Earlier, it appeared as if being fourth might provide a bit of extra cushion in keeping either the Pacers or Heat from falling to sixth, but the bubble has unfolded in a way that has Philadelphia just a half game back of both with three games left to play (well, four for Philly...).
The Pacers can control their seeding with these final three games given two of them happen against the Heat. Their upcoming matchup with Houston will be tough, but wins against Miami will guarantee them a four or five seed in some capacity. That begins with the first of two meetings against Miami on Monday, no doubt bringing to the T.J. Warren/Jimmy Butler storyline back to life for what could a lengthy late summer story arc.