Preview & Chat: The Indiana Pacers

Kurt —  January 27, 2010

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Records: Lakers 34-11 (1st in West) Pacers 16-29 (11th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 109.2 (9th in league), Pacers 101.6 (27th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102.1 (3rd in league) Pacers 106.6 (15th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Pacers: Earl Watson, Luther Head, Brandon Rush, Danny Granger, Troy Murphy (Roy Hibbert could start instead of Rush)

Lakers Coming In Going quietly unnoticed through the recent rough patch is that the Lakers offense has been pretty good lately. The numbers have been consistently getting better in terms of points per possession in the last week or so (the Lakers have cracked the top 10 in the league). That was evidenced last night when the Lakers pretty much did whatever they wanted on offense to the Wizards. It was like a game last season where the offense was so good it didn’t matter much about the defense.

Which is good because the defense remains a concern lately — while the offense has gotten better, the defense has taken steps back. Teams are shooting 44% against the Lakers over the course of the season, but that has been 46% in the last 10 games. Last night Washington shot 51.2% and scored 115 points per 100 possessions. Those are high figures, it was just easy to look past them because the Lakers took control of the game in the second quarter.

But the Lakers right now are not putting it all together on both ends.

Pacers coming in: At the start of the season, I talked about the Lakers as a team with a large margin for error — they could win a lot of games if things did not go perfectly, maybe they could even win a title that way.

Indiana is what a team with no margin for error looks like. Things have to go just right for them to win.

Usually things go right when they go with their small lineup — Granger as the power forward (even though he may be a small three) and Troy Murphy as the center. That five-man unit may have areas you can attack, but they are far-and-away the best five-man lineup the Pacers have. And as you would think they run when they go small.

Pacers blogs Indy Cornrows has been great for years and check out 8 points, 9 seconds.

Keys to game: This is an interesting battle of styles — the Lakers are big with Bynum and Gasol and Artest up front, the Pacers go smaller than any team in the league. It is likely both teams will try to force the other to adjust first in terms of style and personnel.

The Pacers love to get out and run — they play at the second fastest pace in the league. Faster than the Suns and Knicks. The Lakers play fairly fast two and have good athletes on the floor, so they can run but they need to do so under control. If they get sucked into a game of PUJITs and poor transition defense (things they have done recently) they will be in trouble in a Canseco Field House that will be rocking. Also, take care of the ball, limiting turnovers will slow the Pacers down.

In transition defense, the Lakers have to talk, the Pacers are less about set plays and more about recognition of mismatches or guys sleeping then making them pay. Also, Murphy loves to trail the break then spot up for the kick-out three.

The Pacers foul a lot (second worst free throw to field goals ratio in the league). The Lakers need to attack the basket, get the ball inside and not settle for jumpers. More touches for Gasol, I love Danny Granger’s game but he is woefully outmatched there (and Gasol will struggle on the other end defending Granger on the wing, you could put Artist on Granger but then you have GAO on Brandon Rush). When the Lakers do take jumpers they should get good looks — opposing teams have shot 40% from three in the last 10 Pacers games. When they get the shots, the Lakers need to knock them down.

Where you can watch: 4 p.m. start here out west, on KCAL 9. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.