Preview and Chat: The Indiana Pacers

Darius Soriano —  January 22, 2012

Records: Lakers 10-7 (6th in West), Pacers 10-4 (5th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 101.4 (18th in NBA), Pacers 101.3 (19th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.1 (6th in NBA), Pacers 97.4 (4th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Pacers: Darren Collison, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Blake (out), Derrick Caracter (out); Pacers: Jeff Foster (out), Jeff Pendergraph (out)

The Lakers Coming in: Losers of two straight – in blowout fashion to pour salt in the wounds – the Lakers look disorganized and a bit beat down. This team clearly hasn’t discovered what they’ll be on offense from night to night and that lack of identity has seemingly carried over to the defensive side of the ball where their principles aren’t being executed and their rebounding has not been up to par.

Their legs also look worn down. A lot of that can be attributed to the suspect depth on the roster but plenty of blame must also go to Mike Brown’s insistence on playing his main players heavy minutes in games that aren’t truly in reach or competitive. We saw it at the end of the Miami game and again versus Orlando. In neither game did the Lakers ever truly threaten in the final 6 minutes but in both games the starters saw the final buzzer from the court rather than the bench. Even when considering the lack of a viable backup shooting guard on the roster, there was no reason for Kobe to play 95 minutes in games the Lakers lost by double figures, especially when earlier this week Mike Brown spoke of needing to cut Kobe’s minutes in the wake of him now playing 38 of them a night. How that heavy load, not just for Kobe but for Pau (and, to a lesser extent, Bynum) carries over into tonight remains to be seen.

The Pacers Coming in: In J.M.’s conversation with Jared Wade, we learned a fair amount about this team. I suggest you give that a read to get an insider’s perspective into this team.

As for my thoughts, the Pacers offer an intriguing mix of young players coming into their own and veteran players that have been around the block a few times and know what it takes to win in this league. Collison, George, Hill, Hibbert, and Hansbrough give this team a nice core of up and coming players that can be the future of this franchise. When you combine them with Granger (who’s been a bit up and down but seems to be settling in) and David West (who was a great pick up), you have a couple of veterans that can be a strong presence in the locker room to help guide this team. With Frank Vogel getting this team to play hard on defense while utilizing a solid bench that can hold its own against most 2nd units around the league, this team is dangerous on any given night and a threat to make the 2nd round of the playoffs should the match ups break their way.

Moving away from the personnel for a moment, one storyline that interests me is the return of Brian Shaw who caught on as an assistant coach with the Pacers this summer. Shaw was a player favorite and, at least for me, the ideal candidate to take over as head coach when Phil Jackson retired. I won’t cry over spilled milk that the team went in another direction but with the Lakers floundering on offense, Shaw’s return on the opposite bench is somewhat of a bitter-bitter moment for many fans (and potentially some players too).

Pacers Blogs: The analysis at 8 Points 9 Seconds is top shelf and you should check them out for all your Pacers’ news.

Keys to game: The Lakers face what is essentially a carbon copy of themselves when looking at their statistical profiles. Both teams pair a tough defense with a middling offense with each team’s front court being a key strength to the roster. The difference, however, is that the Lakers primary wing player – Kobe Bryant – is having another very strong year while Danny Granger hasn’t yet produced at the level he, and his team, is accustomed to.

And that difference may prove to be the key to this game. Kobe played a brilliant game against the Magic by scoring efficiently and at a high clip while also playing the distributor role nearly perfectly by reading the double teams being sent at him and picking out his mates with precise passes. Tonight, though, he may need to step up his scoring even more in order to give a booster shot to a Laker offense that is struggling to put points on the board. Getting Kobe into the mid post, the elbow, and running him off screens to free him coming into the paint can help get him going on offense and I hope to see more of that early to set the tone on O. He’ll have the long and aggressive Paul George checking him but Kobe can use some of that aggression against the 2nd year wing to shake loose, draw some fouls, and open up the rest of his offense.

But Kobe can’t go it alone. He’ll need his bigs to step up and this is a game where both Pau and Bynum can get it going on offense by being decisive with the ball and attacking quickly. Bynum’s facing a long and tall Hibbert but that size doesn’t come with much girth. If Bynum can get into the post early and work for deep position, Hibbert won’t be able to do much but foul or give up short hooks. That said, Bynum must do a better job of converting when he gets the ball deep – something he’s struggled with the last few games. Maybe the quick doubles he’s seeing from guards digging down is affecting his concentration on these shots but he must do better about getting his shot off quickly without rushing his shooting motion. As for Gasol, David West is not much of a defender and Pau must attack him both off the dribble and by racing up court and trying to get to the post as well. Gasol is an able jump shooter, but his strength is still working his face up game 12 feet and in or working the post from the left block where can go to the middle with his turnaround jumper and running hook or drop step to the baseline side and shoot his lefty hook. Both are good options against a player he has a height and length advantage over and I’m hopeful that even with a more aggressive Kobe, Pau looks for his own shot when he gets his touches.

As for the Lakers defense, the Pacers don’t do a lot of things well on offense but this doesn’t mean they don’t have any threats to be accounted for. Collison, though not shooting a high percentage himself, is still a threat to turn the corner in the P&R and get into the lane to do damage. Collison must also be run off the 3 point line as often as possible and forced to either shoot the long two or move the ball on to a teammate. Further more, when he works the P&R with West, the Lakers must be ready for West to pop to the elbow area and look for his mid-range jumper. The other threats are Granger on the wing and Hibbert in the post. Both players require a lot of attention but the Lakers mustn’t over commit to either players by sending double teams or over reacting by over helping. Granger has been playing well lately but the combination of Barnes and MWP should be enough to limit him as long as they play smart and make him take contested jumpers off the dribble. Hibbert, meanwhile, shows good polish in the post and can hit hooks from the block and stretch his face up jumper out to 16 feet if given the space. Of course he’s best working 10 feet and in, but the point is that he is a threat with the ball in his hands both as a scorer and a passer so both Bynum and Pau will need to be ready when they match up with him.

The other key will be bench play. The Lakers’ reserves have been playing poorly of late while the Pacers offer a group that includes George Hill (who’s a familiar face from his Spurs days) and Tyler Hansbrough. Both players work hard and will hustle for loose balls, attack the rim, and give their bench a boost. The Lakers will need to match these guys’ energy while also hitting some of the shots that they’ve not been knocking down (especially recently). Hopefully being at home (where role players typically play better) and – at least for McRoberts and Murphy – playing against their former team can inspire some solid play. The Lakers will certainly need it tonight.

Where you can watch: 6:30 start time on Fox Sports. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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62 responses to Preview and Chat: The Indiana Pacers

  1. hey I know this is way off topic, sorry about that, and probably breaking all the “trade spec” rules, so I’ll be surprised if it gets allowed…
    but I’ve got a good buddy in Phoenix, and the scuttlebutt over there is they are going to scuttle the vets, go into rebuilding mode, and Steve Nash is a possible trade with the Lakers, for MWP, and Fish, with the goal to cut salaries for next year. Lakes also have to give up a draft pick, and would get one of Phx’s young prospects.
    personally, I’d love to see how this team would fare with a true playmaker PG, and one who can hit his players with nice alley-opps (Bynum, Pau), and guys on the break (Barnes), and Kobe in his sweet spot.
    and a 3Pt threat off the PnR.

  2. Chris h, Steve Nash has an expiring contract while D-Fish and MWP still have 2 years left. How would that be a salary cutting move for the Phoenix at all?

  3. I’m not sure, this is just what my buddy in Phx says is in the news over there. I’d kind of like to see it if it’s possible

  4. this was written about 12 days ago, and it doesn’t look too likely, on the Nash front… ah well, was fun to dream about it, I know it’s only a short term fix, but I also think Kobe’s window is closing, and with his usage rate this year, too quickly using him up, what’s let in the tank, that is.
    http://www.dailysportspages.com/index.php?threads/can-steve-nash-assist-in-lakers-title-hopes.1033/

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  6. Let’s see if Bynum will rise to the occasion and replicate the numbers that his down the hallway counterpart Jordan did today by posting 16 points and 16 rebounds. If Jordan continues at this clip, he could catch Bynum for the all-star games starting center. At any rate, Jordan deserves a spot on the all-star games roster.

    Kapono needs to be on the floor with Bynum, Pau and Kobe to spread the floor. With these players, he will be allowed to do what he can do most aptly…and that is shoot. The opposing team would have to pick their poison, by choosing which player they can leave open with the double team.

    The Lakers have to start showing offensive progress going towards Wednesdays showdown with the Clippers.

  7. I am putting a call into David Stern!

    It’s not fair to play 8 Pacers aganist 3 Lakers.

    Not fair.

  8. 6,

    To be fair, all Jordan has to do is run the floor and the points are there. Even with CP3 on the sideline there are enough capable play makers on that team to get him lobs all game long. Bynum isn’t being set up the way Jordan is. Jordan doesn’t even have any back to the rim game. Give the man his credit. But lets not start calling him an All Star because he has the luxury of multiple guys looking to set him up AND the defenses pay little attention to him because they are more worried about other players.

  9. One thing our starting lineup doesn’t have to have is athleticism. If you have Fish running point, Kobe SG then I agree w/ Chearn that its Kapono that needs to be in there to spread the floor.

    The 2nd unit should be more athletic with the combination of McBob, Morris, Barnes and Ebanks.

  10. I’m live tweeting @ZephidFB_G this game, join me if you wish

  11. i love pau’s effort on defense this season.

  12. a 27-point explosion!

  13. Wow. 27 points in a quarter. We might crack 40 for the half at this rate!

    But seriously, it’s been nice to see shots dropping, guys getting to the line, and defensive rebounds being claimed.

  14. any links?

  15. Is it just me, or is the officiating completely different this game than the last two? Lakers seem to be getting away with all kinds of pushes and bumps this game and not so much the last two.

  16. So strange to see the bench actually scoring points!

  17. Bynum is a really terrible passer.

  18. KenOak,
    I agree, he’s a terrible passer. When he actually decides to pass…

  19. 1st laker possession of the 2nd half: it takes them 14 seconds to get into their offense off a missed shot. wtf?

  20. What a great pass by Gasol to Bynum at 5:48 of third quarter leading to 2 Bynum FTs

  21. Who can the Lakers beat?

  22. Morris is terrible. You can’t win with these players.

  23. Link anyone?

  24. so many half hearted double teams which just end up in wide open treys

  25. Very hard to watch this team, leaving wide open 3s. What a very poor team Briwn has created.

    Hibbert could be better then Andrew on offense.

  26. Lakers bench had a nice scoring game and extended the lead in the fourth quarter. Hopefully this is not a one game aberration of MWP scoring.

  27. James – Yeah, the soft double that achieves nothing except leaving an outside shooter open is frustrating. Particularly given that pretty much every other team can shoot the 3 ball a lot better than ours!

    Looks like this one is going down to the wire, despite that early scoring success.

  28. Andrew Bynam is a big lazy player. Watch him. He jobs down court. He stands under the basket and makes no attempt to fight for rebounds.

    If he is a all-star the I am the Pope.

  29. I love Pau’s passing ability, but I would also love him to have made more than 3 FGs and 0 FTs…

  30. for those that kill kobe for hogging in clutch, 2 passes to wide open team mates, both miss..

  31. Twice Kobe gives it up and our players can’t come through. You can bet your life Kobe is going to take the next shot.

  32. This team is a joke. Anyone who thinks they can compete us clueless.

    Pacers have better players and a much better coach.

    Nice job Jimmy Buss.

  33. That was the most pathetic offensive possession I’ve ever seen. I want Kobe to take EVERY shot in a game from now on. I’m serious.

  34. Fisher is terrible. First he gives up the open layup to Collison and now what the hell was that? Was that a shot or a lob?

  35. Fisher is a d league player. Tbe franchise should be ashamed of themselves for putting this junk on the court.

    How does lottery sound there Buss.

    Like I said this team will be under .500 by mid Feb.

    8 players against one. Let’s here today’s excuses.

    What a joke.

  36. Sad to see what has happened to this team

    Bad player.

    Clueless coach.

    Worst PG in the NBA

    Lazy center.

    Wow this is sad.

  37. Ken
    I know everyone gives you a hard time on this blog but I think you’re absolutely hilarious. I think your views are needed for all the unwarranted optimism that I often see on this forum.
    Mitch, please get on the phone. I can’t take much more of this. Kobe doesn’t have much time left.

  38. I think Kobe was saying to Shaw right there, “man, I wish you were the coach.”

    I agree with Rudy. And I personally think Ken is right, so keep it up, Ken!

  39. I feel so bad for Kobe and to a lesser extent Pau. No one else can make a play or even seems to care other than Barnes. Bynum dominates against lesser players but gets exposed against the better centers in the league.

    I am not ready to make a decision on Mike Brown yet. Yes the offense is offensive to watch but the defense is better. There has been hardly any practice time so you would expect the offense to be behind the defense.

    Jim Buss just plain sucks.

  40. Brown please submit your resignation letter now.

  41. Last two Lakers possessions not pretty. After a time out and a long contested Kobe three is the best shot they can get to try and tie the game?

    Missed FTs (22-33 66.7%) and 3 point FGs difference in this game. Pacers were +24 (10-18) from the 3. Lakers only made 2 of 9. The 3-pointer is a huge problem for the Lakers.

  42. Lakers making things really tough on themselves.

    Pacers 55.6% on threes.
    Lakers 22.2% on threes and 66.7% on free throws.

  43. I said this was a must win – so this is a bad loss.

    Not only are we getting crushed as far as our record, but the value of tradeable pieces is going down and so is anyone’s desire to come here.

    This is where “patience” is not quite paying off.

  44. Ken @ 36 Re: Fisher. “T(h)e franchise should be ashamed of themselves for putting this junk on the court.”

    “junk” huh? I’d love to see Fish wear your sorry &#% out on the court.

    By the way, Ken – here’s a news flash for you: the Lakers did try to upgrade at PG – ever hear of a dude named Chris Paul?

    Did it ever occur to you that they are still working on this? But guess what: it takes at least two parties to make a deal.

  45. That last Laker possession kind of symbolizes what the Lakers are right now…

  46. A bunch of Away games coming up in the beginning of February. :/

    But gotta believe the Lakers will bounce back.

    We’ll get there.

  47. I’m gonna save Darius and the other contributors some time since they put in so much hard work on this site. So here’s the game recap:

    The Good: We’re one step closer to the lottery. And Kobe.

    The Bad and Ugly: Everything else.

    Play of the Game: The final buzzer since that meant I didn’t have to watch that crap anymore.

  48. Congratulating Mike Brown and Mitch. You did it! The Lakers are now the 9th SEED in the West.

    You managed to do that in just one year.

    Just sit there and do nothing. Just collect the money.

    I thought we were rid of ownership like the Dodgers.

    Wake up before the fans start turning their ticket in for Clipper tickets.

    9th place Laker fans. How does that feel?

  49. Agree with Rudy on Ken.

    Indiana has a pretty good team, and pretty good teams are a little better than the Lakers right now. Pretty much all there is to it. Next three:

    Clippers
    @Milwaukee (beat Miami tonight)
    @Minnesota

  50. To R

    I will play him! I played major college ball and know enough to not throw the kind of a pass at the end of a game.

    As for trying to make a trade.

    I tried to win the lottery last week. Missed it. Guess I should just give up.

  51. I must say, Ken’s rants on this blog are more entertaining than the Lakers right now LOL.

  52. This Lakers team has no sustainability, good in first quarter 27-14 and lousy in closing the last quarter. Where is the defense in the post? Where is the offense from the Lakers PG? Too many holes to poke! Supposing there is no coach, no plays to be memorized to avoid further brain damage and confusion, just play playground basketball by getting the ball to the hoop, will it be better? Shaw is happy with their W on the road he got his sweet revenge in the most professional way.

    Dr. Jerry Buss, what’s going on with our Lakers?

  53. Thank you Joe. Your a good man?

  54. Just…ugh. Hard to watch. I find ken’s complaints pretty hilarious as well, and totally support his right to voice them. I also see where the people urging patience and optimism are coming from. In the end, a discussion is about what everyone brings to table, for better or worse. Ken should be a part of that, even if I don’t always agree.

    My feeling about the Lakers right now is somewhere north of Ken and somewhere south of say, Darius. It’s not a matter of having “junk” on the court. It’s a matter of drive and desire and at the moment, only a few players on the court really seem to have it. I was never big on the Brown hiring…but he managed to coach a bunch of “junk”+Lebron to much, much better success than this. The onus is on Pau and Drew. They SHOULD be dominating and they simply aren’t.

  55. Honestly, its our time now. Championships are like waves in my eyes. We win some years then we lose some years. Over time we are going to get better players and win again.

    Its just that I know Kobe isn’t going to like that, but thats just how it is. We’re too old now.

    I’m still going to root for this team like it was 2005, then a type of 2009 team will come around and we’ll cheer again. By that time, Kobe will be retired, and we’ll have someone else. We gots the money to spend.

    I never thought I would feel like this, but maybe its about time that we should be missing Phil Jackson’s coaching ways eh?

  56. Ken,

    This won’t make you feel any better, but the Lakers are actually 10th now ;)

  57. I don’t think its about having patience like Darius has preached, I think we just need to accept that this Lakers team is not very good. I am really not shocked at all that they have lost 3 in a row. Pau could be playing better as well as Bynum, but besides them and Kobe they really got no one else. I think Pau and Bynum are two players that can play well in an effective system that works for them, but this just is not it. I don’t really expect much improvement from them throughout the year unless the system is seriously changed.

  58. I am hoping we get a good roll on that ping pong ball come lottery time.

    Why would Howard want to come here?

    His current team is way better.

    I am sure Buss has a plan.

    Like raising my ticket prices next year.

    Is it baseball season yet?

  59. Well Pau showed up even after they wanted to trade him. He has been playing pretty good defense the past few games and is hustling. Offensively, he is up and down because he is most effected by the change in coaches, and still trying to figure out ways to help the team.

    Andrew, is the one that is disappointing to me, and maybe it is time for him to have a change in scenery. Drew is not battling down low in the post for position, he stands and watches his team shoot, does not try to go in and battle for an offensive rebound. Then once the opposing team has secured the rebound, then and only then does he turn to lope down the floor. When he is on defense he does not read and react to neither his man, nor to the other four opposing team players.

    Predicated upon Drew’s desire to be the man last year and his first game back from the suspension: I was one of the people calling for Andrew to move up in the pecking order.

    The offense looked better the first half, as the player and ball movement created easy offense. The second half the players reverted back to their old habits of one person bringing the ball up the floor, and thereby allowing the defense to set up. Defensively, the Lakers kept dropping down to help Andrew on Hibbert and were unable to return to their man, whom hit open threes.

    Why does Andrew need help defending his man? Is there any possibility that Andrew is injured? A few games back he did go down when he stepped on a players foot. Maybe I’m reaching but he is not as active as was when he first returned from suspension.

  60. @53 – Perfect!

  61. Ken: “I tried to win the lottery last week. Missed it. Guess I should just give up.”

    No Ken – keep trying! In fact, I suggest you eat sparingly and borrow heavily in order to put as much money into playing the lottery as you can!