Game Preview and Chat: Indiana Pacers

Kurt —  January 6, 2008

Records: Lakers 20-11; Pacers 16-18
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.8 (6th); Pacers 106.1 (16th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.0 (9th); Pacers 106.8 (13th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Pacers: Andre Owens, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Jermaine O’Neal, Troy Murphy

Lakers Notes: Kobe Bryant is playing 36.5 minutes per game this season, down from 40.8 last year. Fisher and his veteran legs are playing 26.5 per game. Lamar Odom is playing three fewer minutes a game. All that is to say that the Lakers bench and blowout wins are combining to keep the minutes down for guys who will have to play big minutes in the playoffs. You can wear a team out right now by overplaying them, but Phil Jackson hasn’t had to do that.

I often look at the other team’s last 10 games stats (via Doug’s stats) to see how a team is doing coming into the Lakers match up. What about the Lakers in the last 10? They have been getting great contributions from Kobe (despite his poor shooting of late), Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher. With Bynum and Odom averaging 10 rebounds each per game, the Lakers have been beasts on the boards. And, as a team the Lakers are shooting 51.9% (eFG%) and 34.1% from three in that stretch while holding opponents to 46.9% and 32.5%.

And the Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10, which is still just tied with Phoenix for fourth best in the west in that stretch.

The Pacers Coming In: The Pacers had lost five in a row before Friday’s thumping of Atlanta. The win led to an interesting comment at the Indy Cornrows blog:

The Pacers often feast off brief individual player surges in wins. Sure, 48 minutes of consistent play would be ideal, but this team doesn’t have that in them. As long as 3 or 4 guys can offer strong contributions at some point in the game, the result is usually a W.

The individual who has been hot lately (and, really, all season) is Mike Dunleavy, who is shooting 60.7% (eFG%) in his last 10 games, scoring a team high 19.1 points per game in that stretch. The Lakers need to stick with him at the three-point line, where he is shooting 46.3% in his last 10.

The Pacers also have been getting good play from Jermaine O’Neal, who is averaging 16 and 8 (but shooting just 42.9%) in the last 10. Danny Granger and Troy Murphy have been solid contributors. However, former fan favorite Ike Diagu has struggled since coming back from injury, he is just 9 of 34 from the floor since his return.

Jamal Tinsley is day to day and has missed the team’s last four.

Last Time These Two Met: It was the day of the Ariza trade, so the Lakers team the Pacers will see will be a little different.

The Lakers put up 134 points on 67.4% (eFG%) shooting, including hitting 52% from three (13 of 25). Kobe started the trend — in the first quarter he was 4 of 7 from the floor (2 of 3 from beyond the arc), plus he got to the line four times, giving him 14 points in just under 11 minutes. After a rest he came back in and was 4 of 6 (3 of 4 from three) with another assist, giving him 26 points on 80% (eFG%) shooting for the half.

The other thing of note — that was one of the Lakers better defensive showings this season. They held the Pacers as a team to 43.7% (eFG%) shooting. And Andrew Bynum got the better of Jermaine O’Neal in that game, by far.

Looking Too Far Ahead: If you haven’t seen it, apparently the Suns are not going to make any big moves this season and try to win with what they’ve got. I still think the Suns are a team constructed for the regular season, and in a seven-game series the Spurs and Lakers can beat them (and probably the Mavs, and if the Jazz or Rockets are healthy they would be a tough match up for the Suns as well).

Keys To The Game: Indiana gets good production (and more than half its points) from it’s bench — Marquis Daniels, Shawne Williams, former Laker Kareem Rush, Jeff Foster and Travis Diener to name a few. The Lakers bench has to be up to the challenge (without Radmanovic, who is injured) and win the battle of the benches.

This is going to be a fast-paced game, the Pacers run at the third-fastest pace in the league and want to push the tempo. The Lakers, with better athletes, took advantage of this last game, picked their spots and had a big night on offense. They also limited the easy transition baskets for the Pacers and forced them to shoot from deep (the Pacers took 27 threes). The Lakers need to do that again, running when it is smart but avoiding turnovers. This is a game the Lakers should continue with the hot shooting, get open looks and lay-ups, and hopefully continue to rest starters late.

Jermaine O’Neal is not going to forget that Bynum got the better of him last game, look for that to be an interesting match up tonight.

Tonight’s Game: Where A Spectacular Ariza Dunk Happens: This is the kind of game that is well suited to the athletic youth of the Lakers — Farmar, Ariza and even Bynum run the floor well and should get some great opportunities tonight. As long as the Lakers take care of the ball and don’t provide easy baskets the other way, they should help Indiana start a five-game road trip with a loss.

Where you can watch: Game time is 6:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into Fox Sports, nationally you’ll need League Pass (NBA TV is giving us the thriller that will be the Mavs and the T-Wolves).