The Los Angeles Lakers returned home after a two-game road trip and hoped the Staples Center court could help them snap their losing skid. In the Lakers’ way were the Indiana Pacers, a team that stood at 10-4 before the game tipped-off.
The Lakers had struggled offensively against the Heat and Magic, and were hoping their day off would reverse the spell. The Lakers could not afford to lose to teams that were less talented than they were, and this match-up was no different.
The Lakers made it a priority to feed the ball to their big men as the Pacers did not have enough to handle two seven footers. The Lakers did not shoot the ball particularly well in the past two games, but they had a solid start in tonight’s game. With 8:50 left in the opening period, the Lakers had an 6-4 lead and all six points came from the front-court players.
Kobe Bryant nailed in his first field goal a little over five minutes into the game, a good sign as he too was cold to begin the Magic and Heat games.
The Lakers continued to have success feeding the ball inside, and all the Pacers could do was send Los Angeles to the free-throw line. The Pacers also helped the Lakers with their poor three-point shooting as they began the game at 0-3.
Nevertheless, with 5:42 left in the quarter the Lakers held a mere 12-10 lead despite the fact that they made six of their early eight free throw attempts.
The Lakers then opened up a nine point lead through hustle and crashing the boards. Los Angeles was getting the ball and it was obvious that they were hungry to get off to a good early start. The Lakers were ahead 23-14 at the 2:10 mark and it was clear the Pacers could not handle the Lakers’ height and strength.
Through 12 minutes the Lakers opened up an impressive 27-14 lead behind 11 points by Kobe Bryant and and six by Pau Gasol. As a team, the Lakers attempted 14 free throws and connected on 11 of them, whereas the Pacers did not shoot one from the line.
Even without Kobe Bryant on the court, the Lakers found ways to score points, with the majority of them coming again from the line. Metta World Peace was punishing his defenders with his size and gave the Lakers a nice spark off the bench. With 8:55 left in the second, the Lakers held a 33-23 lead with 16 free throw attempts and 12 fouls drawn.
The Lakers continued to play well and their young players provided the team with valuable minutes off the bench. Devin Ebanks and Darius Morris gave the team six solid points to lead them to a 42-33 lead with 5:33 left in the period. To make things even better, World Peace temporarily got out of his shooting slump and was stroking the ball from the perimeter. His nine points in the first half helped the team out a lot and gave Bryant some extra time on the bench.
However, the Pacers made a late push in the final minutes of the second quarter even with the Lakers’ leaders on the court. The Pacers played to the Lakers’ weaknesses and began to run in the open floor. After an amazing three-point shot at the buzzer by David West, the Pacers cut the Lakers’ lead down to three, 52-49.
Kobe Bryant led the way for the Lakers with 17 points on 7-13 shooting and surprisingly Metta World Peace was right behind him with nine points.
As a team the Lakers shot 45 percent from the field and shot 13-21 from the charity stripe.
The Lakers had a slow start in the third quarter and the Pacers came out with more effort and energy. Kobe Bryant had to take a bigger role in the offense as his team was taken back by the re-surging Pacers. Roy Hibbert was more assertive down low for Indiana and he helped the team take the lead in the opening minutes of the period.
As the quarter progressed the Lakers increased their level of energy and were playing a little more desperate. They understood that the Pacers were about to put together a run, so they went back to what go them the lead, feeding the ball to the big men.
Andrew Bynum saw an increase in touches and it put a stop to the Pacers. Bynum scored on consecutive possessions and his 13 points gave the Lakers a 67-65 lead with 5:35 left in the third period after an 11-5 run.
Once the Lakers put it on the race, they never looked back and continued on their hot streak. Kobe Bryant balanced his offensive attack and passing abilities well, and those two things led to the Lakers expanding their lead. Kobe recorded his fourth assist in the game after a nifty pass to Matt Barnes which gave the Lakers a 73-68 lead with a little over three minutes left in the quarter.
However, the Pacers weathered the storm well and never were rattled when the Lakers went on their run. The only reason why the Pacers did not have the lead after 36 minutes was because of a buzzer-beating shot by Kobe Bryant.
Heading into the fourth, the Lakers had a slim 78-77 lead.
The Lakers started off the quarter well with Kobe Bryant on the bench for his rest, and World Peace continued with his impressive shooting. He was hitting on his perimeter shots and played stellar defense on the Pacers’ forwards. With 8:34 left in the game, the Lakers held a seven-point lead, 84-77.
The Pacers, however, went back to their big man Hibbert to provide the team with scoring and defense. The Lakers were looking like they would run away with a victory, but the Pacers did not back down and were down just three, 84-81, with 6:32 left in the game.
The game went back-and-forth in the final five minutes and the Lakers’ offense began to lose some of its efficiency. However, the Lakers understood that passing the ball would lead to success and they made an effort to find teammates with open passes. Pau Gasol’s nine assists helped the Lakers tremendously and his amazing vision was a boon for the team.
The game came down to the final minute and the Pacers made the stops and scored the points. They were getting themselves to the basket, but more importantly, they made the Lakers make tough shots. Los Angeles had a chance to tie the game with a three, but Kobe Bryant’s deep attempt was not good and L.A. eventually lost the game, 98-96.
Kobe Bryant finished the game with 33 points on 14-30 shooting, followed by Andrew Bynum with 16 points and eight rebounds. Still, the Lakers could not close out the Pacers and lost their third consecutive game.
The Lakers’ next game will be on the 25th when they square off once again with the Los Angeles Clippers.