Record: 18-13 (Pythagorean 19-12), 5th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 5-5
Offensive Rating: 105.7 (21st in league)
Defensive Rating: 102.2 (3rd in league)
About the Pacers: With Ron Artest, the Pacers were 11-7, without him 7-6, which includes a win last night in Sacramento (a blowout that allowed some key guys to get rest). Due to injury and illness (in the case of Artest, mental illness), this is the starting lineup the Pacers had to go with: Stephen Jackson, Anthony Johnson, Danny Granger, Austin Croshere and David Harrison. Not the title-contending lineup pictured before the season.
The best guys had to come off the bench. That starts with Jermaine Oâ€™Neal, who had missed the previous three games with a bout of pneumonia. He was still +20 last night, not bad for a sick guy. Not sure how much energy heâ€™ll have for tonight, but he is still dangerous â€” shooting 47.9% (eFG%) from the field, scoring 24 points per 40 minutes and pulling down 10.9 rebounds in that same time (15.9% of the available boards).
Two other guys to watch are Austin Croshere â€” who can fill it up (a true shooting percentage of 61.9%), grabs 14.4% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, and is +9.3 per 48 minutes â€” and Stephen Jackson, who is second on the team averaging 17.4 points per 40 minutes (he had 31 last night in Sacramento).
Thereâ€™s a couple of rookies Iâ€™m really looking forward to seeing â€” Sarunas Jasikevicius and Danny Granger. Jasikevicius, who for three straight years led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Euroleague title before coming to Indiana, has a true shooting percentage of 62.4% (third best in the NBA), is shooting 40.5% from three point range, is +7.3 per 48 and is averaging 15.4 points and 4.9 assists per 40 minutes. What I have seen of him so far has impressed me, he makes good decisions with the ball. With Granger, I really liked the stuff I saw before the draft, he was very athletic, and he is averaging a solid 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per 40 minutes.
One thing you should see: Yesterday my wife and I went to see the Cezanne & Pissarro exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Having lived with an artist all through college, Iâ€™ve been told and shown more than my share of art history stuff before, but this exhibit was set up in a way that really made the points they were getting at clear and enjoyable. Itâ€™s not there much longer but go if you can
One thing I hope not to hear tonight: Too much Artest-to-the-Lakers talk. Just because they are playing the Lakers doesnâ€™t mean the trade is going to happen right after the game. By the way, I think the Pacers are doing the right thing being patient, some team will eventually panic and give them a deal they can live with. If you want more Artest talk, check out the Hoopsanalyst breakdown.
The Lakers coming in: How about that Kobe Bryant? He is a marvel and just fun to watch, wherever he is stealing his moves from. (Michael Vick? Well, it’s better than stealing a move from Marcus Vick and getting another suspension.)
Today though, Phil Jackson and Kobe both say what is has been bothering me more lately â€” the other Lakers are looking to Kobe too much to bail them out. During the winning streak, other players were stepping up, taking and hitting their shots, they need to do that again, and Kobe has to let them. There are times for Kobe to take over, but that canâ€™t be every night.
What I am liking â€” Kobe and Cook on the pick and pop. (Again the Times beat me too this note, nice to see some good stuff out of them.) Cook was 6 of 9 against the Clippers, 2 of 3 from beyond the arc, and led the team as a +9.
Keyâ€™s to a Laker win: Again the Lakers get good timing â€” this is the last game of the road trip for Indiana, they are in the second game of a back-to-back, no Artest and Oâ€™Neal is just starting to get healthy.
This is a night that Odom should step up, defending the four is a weakness of Indiana and Croshere can’t hang with Odom, he needs to be aggressive. Smush (or Sasha) also should have a big night, the Pacers have had trouble defending the point this season.
That said, even without Artest and a full-strength Oâ€™Neal, the Pacers are a good defensive team. The Lakers are going to need to match that and play good defense to win, this is a Pacer lineup that can be slowed. Before the season this was a game you may have thought the Lakers would struggle in, but timing is everything â€” this is a chance for the Lakers to pick up a win against a good team that is in a tough spot.