The Lakers have their work cut out for them tonight when they face the Eastern Conference leading Indiana Pacers. At the trade deadline the Pacers made the most noise in swapping Danny Granger for Evan Turner. It was a bold move, but a smart one in order to bolster their rotation. While the Pacers went from strong-to-stronger the Lakers traded away Steve Blake in order to save money and to acquire two young players. Kent Bazemore and Marshon Brooks are essentially auditioning to be a part of the Lakers rebuilding efforts. The Lakers are in full out rebuild mode especially with their superstar, Kobe Bryant, still sidelined due to injury. Meanwhile the Pacers are a team with a clear goal of winning an NBA championship this year. Let’s hope that the Lakers can keep the game close and entertaining.
Frontcourt: Roy Hibbert has seemed to be on the verge of becoming an elite center for the past few seasons but struggled with consistency. Physically he’s an imposing specimen standing 7’2’’ and a muscular 285 pounds. He’s a particularly good interior defender with 2.5 blocks per game and will surely give Pau Gasol fits in the paint. On the offensive end he is inconsistent and while has a sweet hook shot, he’s only the third or fourth scoring option for the Pacers. Hibbert’s frontcourt mate, David West, is a polished post scoring big man who has a mean streak. He’s the primary frontcourt scoring option for the Pacers and is particularly good at hitting from 15-19 foot range. In fact he’s a very efficient 50.8% from 15-19 feet and the Lakers must be aware of his sweet spot.
Paul George is the team’s leading scorer with 22.5 points per game. He does most of his damage at the rim and has an incredibly quick first step for a guy who stands 6’10”. The Lakers would be wise to force him to take mid-range jump shots where he shoots in the low 40 percent range. George is also an elite defender who has quick hands – he averages 1.8 steals per game. Off the bench Luis Scola is a bull who can wreck havoc on the offensive glass if the Lakers fail to put a body on him. It’ll be interesting to see how many minutes Ryan Kelly gets compared to Jordan Hill in this match-up. Kelly does not match-up well with any of the Pacers lumbering big men. One would guess that Mike D’Antoni would be forced to play Kaman and Hill more tonight.
Backcourt: Lance Stephenson is a jack of all trades who leads the league with four triple-doubles this season. He’s developed into a great passer this year and actually leads the team in assists with 5.2 a game. Stephenson is also a superb defender who is usually tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best guard. The Pacers’ point guard, George Hill, is an efficient scorer who can slash and also do damage from the three-point line. He’s the type of point guard who doesn’t make many mistakes and will defend Kendall Marshall well.
Evan Turner was recently acquired in a trade and he may make his Pacers debut against the Lakers tonight. Turner will likely plug in as the first man off the bench and he’s a great scoring and rebounding guard. He averaged 17.4 points and 6 rebounds for the 76ers this year and will give the Pacers a starting caliber player off the bench.
Key to Lakers’ Victory:
Rebounding: There’s no way to sugar coat this. The Lakers will struggle mightily against the Pacers tonight in rebounding. The Pacers have one of the best rebounding differentials in the league with +4.2 while the Lakers are the worst in the league at -6.6. Essentially this means that the Pacers are likely to pull in about ten more rebounds than the Lakers per game. Pau, Kaman and Hill will need to do their best to box out and keep the Pacers off the offensive glass.
Play Hard On Both Ends: The Pacers are one of the most balanced teams in the NBA and play well on both offense and defense. This is evidenced by their net rating (net rating is the difference in the number of points scored per 100 possessions) of +8.2 which leads the league. The Lakers have shown that they can be great on offense, but will need to match that intensity on the defensive end in order to stay close to the Pacers. If the Lakers only play one side of the ball they are likely to get blown out tonight.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are -13 against the Pacers via Sportsbook
Los Angeles Lakers (19-37) at Indiana Pacers (42-13)
4:00 PM PST, February 25, 2014
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Pacers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: George Hill
SG: Lance Stephenson
SF: Paul George
PF: David West
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: PF: Luis Scola SF: Evan Turner PG: C.J. Watson
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Kent Bazemore
PF: Wesley Johnson
C: Pau Gasol
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