The Lakers return back to Staples Center tonight after finishing their annual Grammy road trip with a record of 2-5 . They have now lost four games in a row, and with frustration at an all-time high, they’ll be looking to try and get back into the winning column against the team with the best record in the NBA: the Indiana Pacers.
The Lakers have lost sight of what it is to be a competent team on the defensive end. They have given up 100 points or more for twelve consecutive games, and with arguably the best team in basketball in town, that won’t make things any easier.
The Pacers boast the most complete frontcourt in basketball. At the power-forward and center position they start David West and Roy Hibbert. Both compliment each other so well, and fill in the gaps for where the other is lacking. Hibbert has been a monster this season, and is the runaway leader for Defensive Player of the Year as of right now. His ability to protect the paint and contest shots is arguably unmatched in the league, and it allows Indiana to be very good on both ends. West is the perfect partner to Hibbert. The veteran is a skilled scorer in the post, and enjoys having to carry the offensive load between the two big men.
At the small-forward position the Pacers start Paul George. This season George has taken his game to the next level. He’s a more polished scorer, and continues to be terror on defense. He’s grown into one of the five best players in the league, and the Lakers will certainly have to game-plan well if they intend to stop him.
On any given night George is liable to light teams up for at least 30 points, so the Lakers must make a cautious effort to limit him first, as he’s the head of the Indiana offense.
In the Indiana backcourt they start George Hill and Lance Stephenson. Hill has been inconsistent at times, but still is serviceable at that point guard position. He defends well, and is capable of knocking down open shots.
As for Lance Stephenson, he has taken his game to an all-star like level. The young man has arguably been the second best player on the team this season, and has used his unique speed, strength, and athleticism to score, rebound, and make plays for others.
The Lakers will have their hands full tonight, as the Pacers bring in the most complete starting lineup in the NBA.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Contain Paul George: A lot of the sustained success from the Pacers has come from the growth and continued development of George. He’s a remarkable talent and impacts the game on both ends on a nightly basis. It’s important that they make him earn his money on a night like this. They need to make it tough for him to score and attack him aggressively while he’s defending. He’ll be excited to be playing in front of friends and family, so if they aren’t careful, things can get out of hand quickly with a player of his stature.
Get Off To A Good Start/Push The Pace: A common trend for the Pacers is that they tend to start games a bit slow on the road. The Lakers have to come out ready and firing on all cylinders. Their only chance of competing against a team of this caliber is if they strike early, push the pace and get as many offensive possessions as possible. If this game because a grind-it-out affair, they’ll have no chance.
Limit Offensive Boards: The Lakers give up the most second-chance points in the NBA. While this trend will likely continue, the backcourt players need to help the bigs rebound instead of waiting for the outlet pass. The Pacers are one of the top rebounding teams in the NBA with Roy Hibbert and David West in their frontcourt. If they fail to box-out, then fans will be in for a long night.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-29) vs. Indiana Pacers (34-9)
7:30 PM PST, January 28, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: ESPN LA 710
Pacers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: George Hill
SG: Lance Stephenson
SF: Paul George
PF: David West
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: SG: Danny Granger, PF: Luis Scola , PG: C.J. Watson
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Nick Young
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Pau Gasol
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