Game Preview & Chat: The Indiana Pacers

Kurt —  November 20, 2007

Records: Lakers 6-3; Pacers 4-6
Offensive ratings: Lakers 109.2 (11th); Pacers 103.3 (22nd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.9 (18th); Pacers 104.4 (13th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, Chris Mihm
Pacers: Jamaal Tinsley, Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy, Jermaine O’Neal, Troy Murphy,

Lakers Notes: A sentence that starts “Ben Wallace fell into your leg…” is not one that’s going to end well and it didn’t for Kwame Brown, who will miss at least a month. His defensive presence in the paint will be missed on nights like Friday (facing that Boston front line).

Good news on the injury front, Ronny Turiaf made the trip with the team and is expected to play tonight (and they will need his D with JO in the opposing colors).

While the Lakers have been playing great, there are two areas of concern that have come up in the comments. First has been the play of Kobe the last few games. You’d think he was the last guy we need to worry about (on the court, anyway), but fans are concerned. Rob L. made the point you really don’t need to be:

Kobe’s last two games haven’t been spectacular, but also not as bad as people think. If one looks at his ORtg, instead of just his shooting %, it tells a much different story.

Vs Pistons: 111.68 ORtg using 19.15% of Lakers possessions. 38.89% EFG, 47.03% TS

Vs Bulls: 91.59 ORtg using 21.14% of Lakers possessions. 37.5% EFG, 47.17 % TS

I’ll grant you that the Bulls game numbers are merely good, not great. But Kobe had a great game against the Pistons offensively. Yes this is due in part to all those assists, as his EFG and TS were nearly identical in those games.

Then there is the ongoing turnover problem, and just how big a problem that really. Right now the team is overcoming it, but it is something the team needs to get a handle on as the year wears on. Come the playoffs, teams will be better able to exploit those kinds of mistakes (so far, only San Antonio really has, although other teams have hung around games longer because of it).

The Pacers Coming In: Get your track shoes out, the Pacers are running the ball under Jim O’Brien — they are averaging 96.9 possessions a game, the same pace as the Phoenix Suns. (The Lakers are at 94.8. seventh in the league.) They also go relatively small, with Troy Murphy as their starting center (although Jermaine O’Neal certainly helps along the back line).

Despite the pace the Pacers have lost six straight, and part of the problem is that O’Neal is playing his way back into shape, his left knee is not fully healed and has not got his offensive game on track, shooting just 39.7% from the field (he also did not practice yesterday due to swelling in his knee).

Really, few Pacers are shooting well, as a team they are shooting just 48.2% (eFG%). Only Murphy (54%) and Danny Granger (50.7%) are shooting over 50% (of the guys who do much scoring). (Side note, Ike Diagu is playing and shooting well too, but is out with an injury.)

But if you check out Indy Cornrows, you’ll see the Pacers have looked better their last couple of games. And one guy to watch for is athletic rookie Shawne Williams out of Memphis — he was an “upside” kid in the draft with questions about his work ethic. More of those guys fall out long term than GMs seem to think, but so far he seems to be making it work, as evidenced by 7 of 11 shooting off the bench in the Pacers win against Utah the other night. He is the first Pacer wingman off the bench.

Pinky, Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering?The Orlando Magic front office got pounded for that Rashard Lewis contract this summer, and it was probably larger than it needed to be, but I thought from the start he was a good fit with the pieces in there. And for once I was right about something in the East. Because he was in little-televised Seattle I think a lot of people didn’t realize how good an offensive player Lewis is. Well, the Magic are 10-2, second in the East, and Lewis is shooting 62.6% (eFG%) and 48.1% from three.

Keys To The Game: The Pacers and the Lakers like to run, and they both turn the ball over a lot — the Pacers on 18% of their possessions, the Lakers on 17.8% (23rd and 22nd in the league). If one team can limit those turnovers tonight they will have a big advantage. Also, converting the turnovers that do happen into easy buckets will be important.

That’s where the Lakers bench — and particularly the pressure defense of Jordan Farmar — can be key. The Pacers bring some raw but athletic guys off the bench (Diagu, Williams) but the Lakers second team should again be able to have a good night.

One other note, the Pacers foul a lot — second highest percentage in the league. This is a night the Lakers slashers (Kobe, Odom) could get to the line a lot. If they hit their free throws that’s another plus for the Lakers.

Tonight’s Game: Where The Over Happens: My guess is this game looks like a faster-paced version of the Bulls game — close for three quarters, the Lakers bench gets a double digit lead with 8 minutes or so to go. But, as this one is on the road, expect the late comeback push by Indiana, the Lakers will need to hold on and hit a key shot or two in the end.

Bottom line, in a back-to-back on the road like this the Lakers should at least get a split, and it’s a lot easier to win that first one. They need to come out focused tonight and not play to the level of the competition.

Where you can watch: Game time is 4 p.m. (Pacific), but in Los Angeles KCAL (9) is delaying the start time until 5:30 p.m. (something they often do with mid-week games out East). Nationally you’ll need league pass, but my guess is a larger portion of us than normal will be watching online with Gamecast.