With the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Indiana Pacers tonight, Forum Blue & Gold reached out to Jared Wade of 8 points 9 seconds to discuss the game.
J.M. Poulard, Forum Blue & Gold: Although most would not necessarily call them the frontline of the future, I am a big fan of the Pacers starting frontcourt. The combination of Roy Hibbert and David West may be a little slow in their rotations, but they get there just in time to bother their opponents’ shot attempts at the rim which translates into a 58 percent field goal shooting allowed right at the basket according to Hoopdata (fourth best mark in the league).
Thus I’m anxious to see how both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum play against these big men; and if they are able to convert at the rim against them.
With that said, my biggest question is reserved for the offense: with a frontcourt that features Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert; how come the Indiana Pacers can’t score??
Jared Wade, 8 points 9 seconds: That’s the $64,000 question. A lot of it is about stagnation. These guys need good ball movement and cutting to score and there is too often little of either. With the addition of George Hill and David West, who is just now really getting back into game shape after offseason knee surgery, and the introduction of Paul George as a bigger part of Frank Vogel’s revamped system, there is also still a feeling-things-out process going on. Guys, particularly the reserves, are trying to learn their roles and figure out how they can mesh together.
And then there’s just the fact that everybody aside from Hill — and especially Granger and West — is missing makable shots. All are way below their career norm shooting percentages around the rim. You have to think this will improve as the sample size does. This offense looks really good at times, and the starters are actually producing as a 5-man unit. It’s just when they incorporate the bench guys and start mixing and matching lineups that everything goes downhill.
J.M. Poulard: I’m glad you touched on it because so far this season Danny Granger’s shooting has baffled me. Initially I figured that he was settling for tough shots, but after watching the Pacers a few times, I liked what I saw from their offense.
Oddly enough, the Lakers run some of the same misdirection plays for Kobe Bryant that the Pacers run for Danny Granger. The idea is often to get the defense to think that the ball is going to one of the big men inside as Kobe sets a cross screen for his center, and then he gets screened by his power forward and pops out at the top of the key for either a jump shot or an isolation.
The Lakers so far have found ways to execute but have had trouble converting their shots. The Pacers seem to have the same issue but they offer enough variety for things to progressively get better during the rest of the season.
In the matchup tonight, I think the big men cancel each other out (starters and bench) and thus the wing scorers will play a huge part in this one. Darren Collison should be able to turn the corner against Fisher and get into the lane for some opportunities in the paint.
The great equalizer may be Matt Barnes getting out in transition for some easy scoring chances as well as his ability to play off Kobe to get open 3-pointers.
Ultimately though, I think the contest comes down to whether Kobe (versus George) or Granger performs better (versus Barnes and MWP).
Who do you think performs better and leads his team to victory?
Jared Wade: There are two things I was thinking about perhaps happening when I was looking at the Lakers schedule. One the one hand, I could see the Lakers really coming out aggressively and dominating Indy after back-to-back losses down in Florida. On the other hand, I could see them sort of taking the night off mentally as they are now back home after a road trip and have a rare (in this season) one game in four nights stretch here before playing another Battle of Los Angeles game on Wednesday.
In the former, seemingly more probable scenario, I can see Kobe really going nuts. Paul George has shown his defensive prowess against Derrick Rose in the playoffs and Dwayne Wade last February, but checking Mamba right now may be an even more daunting challenge. I could easily see Kobe, with his array of jab steps, shot fakes, spin moves and up-and-unders, getting George into early foul trouble and grinning at the lanky Fresno product as he walks to the bench three minutes in like “Nice try, kid.” And while George Hill is certainly familiar with #24, his size probably won’t cut it against the 2012 Kobe incarnation who backs guards down into the torture chamber. So, yeah, I’m not betting against Kobe right now.
As for Danny, Granger has now played three good games (including his two best of the year) in his last five outings. He dropped 26 on 16 shots in just 32 minutes Friday in Oakland, including 6 points in the final 4 minutes. He wasn’t missing bad shots per se earlier in the year but he was pressing and struggling to take on-balance looks in the lane. And he has just been missing a lot of open jumpers he would normally make, shooting a disastrous 26% on long twos. The Lakers wings are certainly not the easiest to exploit, but if Granger can keep trending more towards the positive and not fall back into his early-season bad habits, there’s no reason he can’t light up LA for 20-plus.
J.M. Poulard: After playing 44 minutes on the back end of a back-to-back on Friday night in Orlando, one has to think that Kobe Bryant will once again play heavy minutes tonight since the Lakers only play again on Wednesday.
This means that Pacers will see plenty of the Black Mamba tonight, and he should have a very good scoring night. Mind you, if Indiana decides to double-team Bryant and trap him coming off screens, much like the Magic and Heat did, Kobe will probably score in the early 30s but will be awfully dependent of the shot making ability of his teammates.
Nonetheless, as you mentioned, Bryant will probably put defenders in his dungeon and torture them with his array of moves. He should get several free throw attempts and will his team to victory as the Pacers fall to 1-2 on the Cali road trip.
One small note though: Indiana has brought the energy and relentlessly pounded their opponents on the glass so far this season, which may not bode well for a Lakers team that has consistently been outrebounded as of late.
When FB&G needed to talk Lakers-Pacers…