The Lakers are coming off their best performance of the year, earning their first road win of the season on Saturday against the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers’ balance on the offensive end as well as their dominance on the boards that they displayed against Dallas will continue to be their blueprints for success throughout the season. Most importantly, the Lakers bench, and in particular key offseason additions Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, were able provide the scoring punch that General Manager Mitch Kupchak had in mind when he signed both players this past off-season.
The Lakers’ opponent tonight is the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers had a tremendous 2011-2012 season that saw them take the eventual champion Miami Heat to six games in their best-of-seven second round matchup. They retained the majority of their team in the off-season, which included re-signing center Roy Hibbert to a maximum contract. The Pacers have gotten off to a very poor start on the season and come in with a 6-8 record. Star forward and leading scorer from last season Danny Granger has missed every game this season with a left knee injury and is expected to miss at least two more months. They have struggled to score in his absence, and come in ranking third to last in the league in scoring.
Frontcourt: To say that Roy Hibbert has been a disappointment this season would be an understatement. Hibbert comes in averaging 9.6 points per game, the lowest since his rookie season. He comes in shooting at a 37 percent clip from the field, which is unacceptable for a point guard let alone a 7’2 center. Dwight Howard should be able to patrol the paint and protect the rim against the Pacer guards without much concern for Hibbert if Hibbert keeps playing like he has been all season. Hibbert, however, has been a presence at the defensive end thus far, and comes in averaging 3.1 blocks per game. He has the ability to alter Pau Gasol and Howard’s attempts at the rim.
Power forward David West comes in as the Pacers’ leading scorer at 16.6 points per game. West is a versatile forward who has a deadly mid-range jumper as well as a good feel for the game on the low block. He is not overly athletic and relies on this midrange jump shot r to set up many of his offensive moves. The Lakers must be sure to rotate out to him and not let him get clean looks at the basket. West is slightly undersized for a power forward, and Gasol must look to establish position against him in the paint, as West will not be able to challenge his length.
Backcourt: Paul George is technically the starter at small forward, but he typically starts at shooting guard when Granger is active. He is able to play both positions well. A former first round pick from Fresno State, George is a key to the Pacers future, and enters averaging a career high 15.2 points per game. He is excellent defensively, and has the athleticism to bother Kobe Bryant on the perimeter. In order for the Pacers to win tonight, he must be consistent offensively and create scoring opportunities for himself and others.
George Hill starts at point guard and enters his second season with the team after spending the first three seasons of his career with the San Antonio Spurs. Hill is averaging a career high in points, but has struggled with his shot so far this year in his first year as a full-time starter in the NBA. He is still capable of filling it up from behind the three-point line and the Lakers must be sure to limit his looks.
Keys to Victory:
Win the Rebounding Battle: The Pacers come in second in the NBA in rebounds per game, and the Lakers will have their hands full with them on the glass, particularly with West and Hibbert. Hibbert ranks fourth in the NBA in offensive rebounds and their team averages nearly 14 offensive rebounds per game. The Pacers struggle to score in the half court, so limiting their second chance opportunities will be essential in securing a victory.
Limit Turnovers: Both of these teams rank in the top ten in the league in turnovers per game. The Lakers still have found a way to rank seventh in the league in points per night, despite being second in the league in turnovers. If the Lakers limit their turnover total to 13 or lower, it is difficult to see them losing in this matchup, as the Pacers do not have the offensive firepower to keep pace with them.
Indiana Pacers (6-8) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7-7)
7:30 PM PST, November 27, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
CA TV: TWC Sports Network
Pacers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: George Hill SG: Lance Stephenson SF: Paul George PF: David West C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: G Gerald Green, F Tyler Hansbrough, G D.J. Augustin