Since Thursday is Groundhog Day, we were afraid that things between the Lakers and Pacers would repeat itself. What repeated was that it was a close game. What didn’t repeat was the result.
This time, the Pacers didn’t convert in the final possession. And the Lakers came away with the win, 112-111.
I had mentioned in the game preview that the Pacers are all about putting up a lot of threes. Sure enough, they did in the first half. The Lakers couldn’t stop the drive-and-kick (specifically by the returning Tyrese Haliburton, who was doing a lot of driving and kicking). The Pacers made an incredible 12 three-pointers in the first half. Indiana led from the jump and were just hot throughout the first 24 minutes. Indiana was up, 67-54, by the break.
The Pacers started missing their threes but the Lakers couldn’t stop the fantastic play by Haliburton. Just as the Lakers started a rally, he helped boost the lead back from 7 to 14. It looked pretty bleak for Los Angeles then. It looked even bleaker after Isaiah Jackson made an amazing putback jam. Indy led by 12 going into the fourth quarter.
It all went icy for the Pacers in the fourth, though. The Lakers scored 10 unanswered points (two Anthony Davis dunks and back-to-back threes from Patrick Beverley and LeBron James) as the game went into its closing minutes. Los Angeles led for the first time in the game, 108-106.
With the Lakers leading and about 30 seconds left, 112-111, Tyrese Haliburton challenged Davis on a drive. Anthony Davis packed Haliburton’s lay-up and the Lakers had a chance to extend the lead to three. Unfortunately, PatBev missed both free throws and we were back in the situation of their first match-up. With 5.4 seconds to go, Buddy Hield got trapped in the corner by Dennis Schröder and Davis. Hield put up a shot that nearly went in. Time ran out and the Lakers evened their season series and their road trip.
I commend the Lakers picking up their defense a bit more in the second half. The Pacers shot under 40 percent (18 for 46) after halftime. Lakers also did their thing in second chance points, 18-6. The Pacers were also limited to four three-pointers in the second half, even if the Lakers only made 6 of them all game. The Lakers were aggressive and got to the line (31 attempts to 6 by Indiana) but they need to make those timely free throws (missed 7 in the fourth quarter).
While I was not happy that Darvin Ham put in another three-guard line-up (especially to close the game), they did play some pretty good defense. Yes, Indy also went with their own three-guard gig but they’re considerably taller than what the Lakers put out there.
Anthony Davis seems back to his old self; he went for 31 points and 14 boards. And we definitely can’t forget the clutch block he had on Haliburton. LeBron James went for 26-7-7. Russell Westbrook had a double-double off the bench with 10 points and 10 assists but shot a putrid 2 for 16. Still, he’s one of the better table-setters on the team so he stayed in the game to close.
Haliburton was great in his return game. He went for 26 points and 12 assists. Aaron Nesmith sank 5 three-pointers on his way to 24 points. And Myles Turner (who got an extension, by the way, so I don’t think he’ll be in trade rumors anymore; maybe) went for 20 points and 13 boards. The Pacers have now lost 11 of 12 games.
The Lakers have now evened up their road trip to 2-2. They’re closing out the trip aganist New Orleans on Saturday.
And since we’re getting closer to it, LeBron James is now only 63 points away from passing the Captain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, from becoming the NBA all-time leading scorer. That’s a record I never thought would be approached and we’re about to witness a historical NBA event in the next week or so. That is really something.
But for the Lakers, they’re back to three games under .500. Let’s hope it’s two by the weekend.