The Los Angeles Lakers continue a five-game Eastern Conference road trip Thursday when they visit Indianapolis and the sputtering Indiana Pacers.
Indiana dropped its third straight and 10th in the last 11 games when it lost 112-100 in Memphis on Sunday. On the bright side for the Pacers, Bennedict Mathurin scored 27 points for his fifth consecutive game with at least 21 points, and he has posted at least 19 points in all six games since resuming coming off the bench.
Mathurin started four games through mid-January, during which he averaged 14.3 points per game — 3.6 points fewer than his overall season average.
While the 6-foot-5 first-round draft pick from Arizona has regained his scoring spark, the Pacers continue to seek answers for the absence of Tyrese Haliburton from the lineup.
Haliburton — Indiana’s leading scorer at 20.2 points per game and the NBA leader in assists at 10.2 per game — has been sidelined with elbow and knee injuries for 10 games. T.J. McConnell moved into Haliburton’s vacated starting point guard position Jan. 21 against Phoenix and has averaged more than nine assists per game in his five starts, including an 18-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound triple-double against the Suns.
However, McConnell went scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting in Sunday’s loss to Memphis.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said Tuesday that Haliburton was a full participant in practice.
“It’s possible,” Carlisle said of Haliburton returning to the lineup this week. “We have (Wednesday) and we’ll see where we are. Both (Haliburton and Daniel Theis) practiced (Tuesday) without issue. Ty’s got an elbow brace, but that’s about it.”
Theis, acquired from Boston in the offseason, has yet to play for the Pacers because of a knee injury.
Los Angeles comes into Thursday’s contest, the fourth in its five-game swing through the East, off a 129-123 overtime win at New York on Tuesday. It was the Lakers’ first victory on the trip. LeBron James posted a 28-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double in the win and Anthony Davis scored 27 points.
Tuesday also marked a big night for newly acquired Rui Hachimura, playing his fourth game as a Laker since being traded from Washington last week. Hachimura scored 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked a shot that proved pivotal in overtime.
“His ability and what he can bring to our team, we need him to showcase that every night for us,” James said following the win. “Me and (Davis) told him (before the game), ‘Be aggressive from the very beginning,’ and he was that all the way to the very end, finishing off his performance with that block. We’re lucky to have him.”
Hachimura has scored in double figures in three of his four games with Los Angeles, with Tuesday marking both his scoring and rebounding highs since the move. He posted 30 points in his final game with the Wizards on Jan. 21.
— Field Level Media
Los Angeles can use the addition of another forward alongside Davis to improve its interior defense and rebounding. The Lakers are -0.7 in rebounding margin for the season despite boasting one of the highest rebounds-per-game averages in the league at 45.
Opponents are shooting 44.3% from the field against the Lakers per game, second-most in the NBA.