(Oof, of course the duty of recapping this game would fall to me)
Box Score: Lakers 96, Pacers 98.
I really wish I could skip this section, but if I had to choose bright spots from this gloomy game, I would have to choose:
Pau Gasol’s passing
Pau made some truly beautiful passes in this game, including an over the head pass that Bynum really should have converted into a dunk, but instead got 2 free throws after a foul. At times too unselfish, Pau deferred to his teammates throughout the game, setting up Barnes for a highlight dunk, and even setting up a lob to Andrew. Throughout the game, the offense ran much more smoothly (note: this is a relative term) when Pau was at the high post, directing traffic, and hitting cutters with pin-point passes. This led to a season-high 10 assists for Pau, and he probably should have had more had his teammates converted some of the bunnies they missed.
Metta World Peace’s Return from the Dead
While MWP was effectively corpse-like against Miami and Orlando, he had a strong game, tallying up 11 points on 5-9 shooting (and even a made three!). While he still made a ton of questionable decisions (those off-balance fade aways are not pretty, nor effective), it was good to see him contribute at least something to the game.
First Quarter Energy
The Lakers did come out firing in the first quarter, taking a 13 point lead, 27-14 going into the 2nd period. Matt Barnes led the way with 6 quick points, leaking out on multiple occasions for some easy points. Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts also played with great energy, each getting a couple blocks, further fueling the Lakers excellent defensive play (in the 1st quarter).
After that first quarter, everything went downhill. While holding the Pacers to 28% shooting in the 1st, the Lakers gave up 65% shooting in the second, with the Pacers shooting lights out from three. This included a David West buzzer-beater, cutting the lead to 3 going in to the half. The Pacers finished 10-18 from three, while the Lakers were an anemic 2-9 from three, which has become a regular thing for this Laker team. Even though the Lakers had a huge free throw advantage (22-33 to 16-19, with four Pacer free throws at the end of the game), they weren’t able to overcome the extra 24 points that the Pacers got from beyond the arc.
Roy Hibbert also had a monstrous game, going 9-13 for 18 points, finishing +18 in 27 minutes. He repeatedly pushed his defender (Bynum, Gasol, Murphy, McRoberts, it didn’t matter) deep into the lane, then finishing solidly with what appears to be his favorite move, a left handed hook shot. Indiana’s trio of young guards, Darren Collison, Paul George, and George Hill, all played solidly, shooting 13-22 combined, and 6-10 from three. The Lakers repeatedly clamped down on penetration on defense, giving up open three after open three, and the Pacers made them pay.
I wish I could put more under this section, but Andrew Bynum deserves special mention. While he didn’t play all that poorly (6-12 shooting for 16 points, 8 boards), he struggled mightily against the double team, making several bad passes and committing turnovers. He also did not contain Hibbert in the slightest, with the Pacers going to Hibbert twice in the last three minutes, each time with Hibbert either getting a shot for himself or a shot for a teammate. For someone vying to be one of the best centers in the league, Andrew needs to be able to contain Hibbert one-on-one, and he just wasn’t able to do that tonight.
Also deserving special mention is how horrible the Lakers last two offensive possessions went. First was a horrible play leading to a terrible Fish shot/pass to Gasol that went out of bounds, then the last was a horrible Kobe three that was contested 30 feet from the basket. Needless to say, the Lakers being down three with only one shot attempt left is a recipe for disaster, because unless Fish is open, Kobe is taking that shot, and he just doesn’t get the separation on the perimeter that he needs to get off a clean shot. A lot of blame should go to Mike Brown for designing an offense with a ton of off-ball movement but very little actual ball movement, but it’s clear that the Lakers have no go-to play down the stretch, not like they used to with the Kobe-Gasol pick and roll.
The Play of the Game
If I had to pick a play, it would have to be Gasol’s high post pass to a cutting Matt Barnes, who dove straight down the lane for a crushing dunk. Sadly, the Lakers went away from Gasol after this play. It is a wonder to watch him pass on the perimeter, and he made a lot of good decisions this game. Hopefully the Lakers will continue this trend, and continue to play their offense through Gasol.