The Pacers stole one from the Lakers in Los Angeles, 116-115. What a heartbreak this was. This game pretty much came down to this shot.
The difference between a win and a loss. Wow.
Of course, a lot of events led up to that shot. And we can run over the whole game but what’s going to stick out is that the Lakers had a 17-point lead with 10 minutes left. It looked like we were on our way to a blowout. The fans were already celebrating as Russell Westbrook electrified the crowd with a no-look pass to Wenyen Gabriel.
The Pacers, however, cut the lead down to 7 in about two minutes. Whatever the Lakers were doing early in the game, they stopped doing. We got a lot of one-on-ones. The cuts and dives were nonexistent. They stopped being aggressive inside (they had 15 more free throws than the Pacers). Their overall defense became atrocious late although their transition defense has been awful all night. And the Pacers kept coming and coming.
As I said in the game preview, they’re not the best in making threes but they shoot a lot of them. And that volume can get overwhelming. We saw Aaron Nesmith, Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard, and Myles Turner make shots from behind the arc. Still, we thought the Lakers had a bit of a cushion when Russ made a three, 110-101, with three minutes and change left. But Turner countered immediately with a three of his own.
The Lakers were hanging on to a 112-111 lead when Westbrook missed a lay-up. The Pacers had three chances at the rim and missed all of them. However, Anthony Davis split his foul shots and the Lakers were only up by two with 43.6 seconds left.
Haliburton broke free for a lay-up from some atrocious Lakers defense. But LeBron James countered with a bank shot with 20.9 seconds. The Pacers were fouled 12 seconds later. With 8.7 ticks left, Myles Turner missed an open three from the top. But then Haliburton got the board and calmly passed to Andrew Nembhard, who got free at the left wing. And we know how that ended.
Like I said, it’s the results that matter and this is a game that usually young teams like the Pacers blow. Veteran teams like the Lakers should be winning these types of contests. What a terrible loss for L.A. and a huge win for Indiana.
Anthony Davis was mostly dominant again at 25-13-6 and four blocks. But that missed free throw late was huge. And the Lakers seemed to have a more difficult time to get Davis the ball in the fourth; he only had two shot attempts. LeBron James scored 10 points early and had 21 points overall. Russell Westbrook gave the Lakers a boost with 24 points off the bench but a lot of one-on-one and giveaways later really helped give Indiana that momentum.
I praise Haliburton for his poise. He ended with 24-7-14. Bennedict Mathurin can really get those buckets; he scored 23 points and grabbed 8 boards off the pine. Myles Turner had 15 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks. The man of the hour, Andrew Nembhard, had two late three-pointers, including the game clincher. He scored 12 overall.
Transition killed the Lakers; Pacers scored 23 fast break points compared to the Lakers’ 9. I mentioned that Indiana isn’t really a top three-point shooting team but, again, they shoot a lot. Indy went 6 for 13 (.461) from three in the fourth. The Pacers mostly trailed in the second half but they were a squad that kept coming. You can really only tip your hat to that team.
The Lakers are now 7-12. If they’re a game behind or involved in a tiebreaker for a play-in/playoff spot or playoff seed, this is one of the games we can look back and wish Nembhard didn’t make that three-pointer at the buzzer.
But he did. And the Lakers have to live with that. You just shake your head and move on to Wednesday against Portland.