History was made last night, as Kobe Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and helped the Lakers earn their third consecutive victory as they defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 100-94. Next up on the docket is the reeling Indiana Pacers, who have lost their last eight games. Their most recent defeat came at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, losing 95-85 on Saturday.
Frontcourt: Filling in for the injured Paul George this season is Solomon Hill, who has had produced some positive moments for the Pacers, including a game-winner against the Charlotte Hornets back on November 19. Hill’s individual performance has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, enduring its share of ups and downs this year, en route to a pair of 20-plus point games, as well as some dreadful nights. Overall, he’s averaged 11 points and 5.1 rebounds in his second season.
At the power forward position is 11-year veteran David West, who missed the first 15 games of the season with an ankle injury. West is a strong, physical presence on both ends of the floor and is one of the leaders of this Pacers team. He also has a solid midrange jumper that will likely draw one of the Laker big men away from the basket on defense.
The 7’2″ Roy Hibbert mans the middle for Indiana. Hibbert is the defensive anchor for coach Frank Vogel’s squad, leading the way with 2.2 blocked shots per game. After a horrendous finish to the 2013-2014 season, Hibbert worked with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the offseason in an attempt to get back on track, but it’s resulted in marginal statistical improvement this season. However, the big man could cause the Lakers some problems due to his advantage in stature against an undersized frontcourt.
Backcourt: Another man seizing a starting opportunity because of an injury is C.J. Watson, taking the place of George Hill. Watson is coming off his best game of the season to this point, tallying 23 points and five assists. He knocked down eight of his eleven shots, including four of five from deep.
With Lance Stephenson no longer a member of the team, the Pacers have been looking for a consistent answer at the shooting guard position, and hope that Rodney Stuckey and grow into that role. The 28-year-old is slightly below his career scoring average this year with 12.8 points per game, although his three-point shooting has improved thus far. Indiana will need Stuckey’s scoring punch if they hope to put an end to their losing streak.
Keys to Victory:
Strong Defense: The Pacers rank as the 28th-worst team in offensive efficiency so far this season, so the Lakers need to play with high intensity on the defensive end to ensure that they keep Indiana down on offense. Los Angeles has had plenty of struggles on defense this year, but this is a more favorable matchup in that aspect compared to most of the team’s usual opponents out West.
Effort On the Glass: Indiana has been outstanding in the rebounding department through their first 24 games, averaging the third-most amount of boards per contest. With the size and strength of Hibbert and West down low, the Lakers will need to gang-rebound in order to not get dominated on the glass and give the Pacers additional opportunities.
Push the Tempo: Both teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the pace that they play at. The Lakers play at the seventh highest pace in the league, while the Pacers are at the seventh lowest. The former could benefit by pushing the tempo before the latter can get their defense set. Indiana’s defense isn’t quite what it has been the past few seasons, but it’s certainly still adequate, especially in a half court, grind-it-out game.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are five-point underdogs against the Pacers according to Sportsbook.ag.
Los Angeles Lakers (8-16) at Indiana Pacers (7-17)
4:00 PM PST, December 15, 2014
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
TV: NBA TV, TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Pacers Projected Starting Lineup
SG: C.J. Watson
SG: Rodney Stuckey
SF: Solomon Hill
PF: David West
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: PG: Donald Sloan, SF: Chris Copeland, PF: Luis Scola
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
SG: Ronnie Price
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ed Davis
C: Jordan Hill
Kobe Bryant Passes Michael Jordan On NBA All-Time Scoring List