After a season of touting the Lakers bench and depth, Sunday was a night the Lakers starters reminded us they can play, too. All five Lakers starters shot at least 53% true shooting percentage (which includes threes and free throws). All five Lakers starters were +22 or higher for the night, every bench player was in the negative. It was the starters who had the team up by 20 in the third, it was the bench that gave it back, and it was the 16-0 run in the fourth the Lakers had when the starters were forced to come back on the court that sealed the game.
Letâ€™s look at that last 16-0 run to break down what the starters were doing right. When they were on the floor the Lakers offense was moving the ball well, pushing the tempo to create favorable matchups and Kobe used the attention he attracted after a couple threes to set up Fisher for good looks. The Lakers also played solid defense (plus caught a couple breaks).
We pick up the action as the Pacers had just cut the lead to 7 with a wide-open Dunleavy three (you canâ€™t give him those) so Phil called a time out and put all five starters back in.
6:16 left, Lakers 92-85. The Lakers have a possession where the two-man weak-side game (with Odom handing the ball off to Fisher driving the lane) gave Fisher the chance for a little floater layup over a charging Oâ€™Neal, but he missed it. The Lakers then catch a break â€” Travis Diener blows by Fisher easily on a high pick and gets deep into the paint where approximately eight Lakers collapsed on him (three guys came off the bench just to try to block the shot). Diener kicked out to Dunleavy for a wide-open three. But this time he misses.
The Lakers push the ball back fast, not allowing the defense to get set, and in the rush Troy Murphy has to pick up Kobe. Fish recognizes this and gives Kobe the ball plus sets a little screen, which Kobe uses to drive to about the free-throw line then hits a little fade-away that Murphy canâ€™t touch. Shooterâ€™s roll.
5:32, Lakers 94-85. Murphy has the ball out at the top of the three-point line, Dunleavy comes out to get it, steps behind Murphy as a screen and takes a shot from three-feet behind the arc. It comes up short. Heâ€™s hot but thatâ€™s still not a good choice.
Kobe has the ball out top (at the same place Murphy did on the other end), Bynum comes out and sets a pick, Marquis Daniels is slow getting over the top of it and Oâ€™Neal (who had Bynum) never came out past the free throw line giving Kobe an open 21-footer, Which he nails. It was bad pick-and-roll defense at a key part of the game. Maybe giving Kobe open looks is not a good defensive strategy.
5:10, Lakers 96-85. The Pacers run their offense and work it around to Oâ€™Neal on the left block against Bynum. He backs Bynum down then makes a quick spin move into the center of the lane that Walton is late reacting to, but rather than shoot Oâ€™Neal kicks it out to a wide-open Diener for a corner three, but the Pacers have gone cold. Which frankly was a key part of the win â€” the Pacers had some good looks late and just missed them.
On the other end Kobe gets the ball on the wing and is thinking heat check all the way â€” the Pacers go with an interesting defense of Daniels alone on Kobe on the wing but two guys are stacked up behind Daniels, in case Kobe gets by him. Kobe shoots over the top of the stack but is short and now the Pacers are off and running. Diener tries a lob in transition to Dunleavy, who it turns out is not as athletic as Iguodala, so itâ€™s a turnover.
Kobe pushes the ball up himself and starts to drive the lane drawing four Pacers defenders to him â€” then the kick out pass to an open Fisher in the corner. Joel Meyers is doing a poor manâ€™s Marv Albert â€” â€œYes!â€
4:18, Lakers 99-85. The Lakers smell the blood is in the water now, so they step up the defensive pressure. Bynum does a great job stepping out on the pick-and-roll to deny Daniels any lane, the result is a pass to Diener for a contested 17-footer that falls short.
Odom got the rebound, pushes the ball himself and tries to go coast-to-coast but is fouled in the act. He sinks both.
4:00, Lakers 101-85. Pacers coach Jim O’Brien pays homage to Phil Jackson by not calling a time out when the Lakers are on a 7-0 run.
Instead they again get the ball into Oâ€™Neal, who kicks out to Diener at the three, quick pass to Granger for a three where Walton was running at him. Granger missed, and Walton just kept running and Fisher gets the outlet and hits Walton with a pass from half court. Walton is fouled in the act, and hits one of two.
3:43, Lakers 102- 85. Granger gets the high screen from Oâ€™Neal and drives the lane, but Bynum has stayed back and forces Granger to stop, then make a pass to Dunleavy who is cutting baseline. But this is where Bynumâ€™s length comes in â€” he was able to recover off Granger and block Dunleavyâ€™s shot. The Lakers grabbed the ball and raced up court, but Odom lost control and traveled.
And that brings us to the SportsCenter highlight. Kobe has the ball out at the three-point line on the wing, Bynum comes out and sets the pick and Kobe goes left to the top of he key while Bynum rolls to the basket. The defensive rotations the Pacers have means Diener leaves Fisher to try to pick up Bynum in the block. Kobe sees Fisherâ€™s man leaves him so Kobe goes wit the behind-the-back bounce pass to a wide-open Fisher for a three.
O’Brien thinks this is a good time for a timeout.
2:53, Lakers 105-85. Ike Diago forgets to dribble while posting up on Odom, and itâ€™s a traveling turnover.
Kobe gets the ball on the right wing and without a pick drives to the free-throw line and sees Fisher cutting to that left corner for the three, and hits him with a tight pass and Fisher goes up for the pretty rainbow three.
And thatâ€™s about all that mattered.