Preview & Chat: The Indiana Pacers

Kurt —  January 9, 2009

Records: Lakers 28-6 (1st in the West Pacers 13-22 (13th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.8 (2nd in league) Pacers 105.9 (18th in League)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.0 (4th in league) Pacers 108.3 (18th in League)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Pacers Jarrett Jack, Stephen Graham, Danny Granger, Troy Murphy, Roy Hibbert

Lakers notes: How much fun was it to watch Von Wafer beat the Celtics? The guy could always put the rock in the hole, I hope his game rounds out to the point he can stick in the league.

No Odom tonight, which is to be expected. We’ll see about Sunday night, where with Marion and Beasley coming to town (along with some guy named Wade) his length would sure be handy. Still, it’s January, nobody gets rushed back.

Non-hoop thoughts for a Friday: Thanks to Anthony for today’s photo, which is a picture of his father before the Hornets game. I’ll let you guess which one is his dad (hint: Anthony is not locked up in a padded cell).

I’m not going to be the 8 millionth blogger to call for a college football playoff, that point is beyond obvious now. What I’m saying is it can’t be a four-team, plus-one system. Do that this year and USC and Utah (the teams that looked best in their bowl games) would still have been on the sidelines as the fifth and sixth ranked teams in the nation in the final BCS poll. Got to be an eight-team playoff, even if that means cutting the regular season back to 11 games.

I’ve taken to rooting for Jamie on Top Chef this season.

The Pacers Coming In: TJ Ford appears to be out with a back strain tonight, although officially it is a game-time decision.

The good news for this team, also battling injuries, is that it gets Mike Dunleavy back. His first game was against the Suns, he should get a little more burn tonight.

The Pacers are one of those teams that plays a lot of close games, they just have been a bit unlucky. They’ve beaten the Lakers and Celtics (and Suns in dramatic fashion two nights ago) but lost some close ones they should have won. (Mike Dunleavy might have changed some of that.) Look at their Pythagorean winning percentage and they should be 15-20, which would have them one-game out of the eighth seed. All of which is to say, this team actually could make the playoffs in the East.

For more info on the Pacers, be sure to check out Indy Cornrows.

Last time they met: On Dec. 2 the Lakers blew a 15-point lead to start the fourth quarter — Farmar was forcing the play and causing turnovers, Bynum disappeared from the boards — and the Lakers lost 119-118 on a Troy Murphy tip at the buzzer.

It was a fast-paced game with 101 possessions. The Lakers struggled to contain TJ Ford, who had 21 points and was a game high +21. But what really killed the Lakers was a bad night on the glass — Indiana grabbed 36.5% of their missed shots, and that’s a lot of second chance points.

Keys To The Game: Just like last meeting, this game is going to be a track meet — these teams play at the third (Pacers) and fourth fastest tempos in the league. As always in these cases, transition defense will be the key to whatever team wins. In the Lakers case, this also means controlling the boards on both ends.

Also, the Lakers need to slow the pace a little when the starters are in. As it is virtually every night, the Lakers have an advantage in the paint with their bigs, they need to feed them the ball early. That will open up the perimeter.

This is an interesting game for Andrew Bynum match-up wise. Hibbert is a good offensive player — he has a variety of post moves, can finish with either hand and has a jumper out to 16 feet or so you have to respect. However, he is not a good defender. Bynum should be able to get some points in the post (providing the Lakers get it there) but he has to be focused on the defensive end. And he’s got to control the boards.

If Granger is going to take a three with the game on the line, you better get right in his face. Ask the Suns. And much like Gasol, it would be disgrace if he is left off the All Star team.

Final thing — with a team that wants to run you have to take care of the ball. Turnovers fuel them.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start, just about the time the Cavs are done beating the Celtics. Fox Sports in LA and League Pass nationally.