What can really be said about this game? The Lakers simply outclassed the Pacers and thrashed them to the tune of a 122-99 route. The home crowd got tacos and all Lakers fans got a complete performance that has been missing for most of this season. If there is one thing to nitpick about LA in this outing, it was the Lakers again starting the game slowly and letting the Pacers hang around. Early in the first quarter, the Lakers flashed the sloppy play that has plagued them in recent first halves of games, but by the end of the first quarter that sloppy play would dissipate and the Lakers would begin to take control. And once the Lakers took grasp of this game, there would be no looking back. Highlighted by 38-17 third quarter, the Lakers blowout would be in full swing and all that was left was a final twelve minutes of clock time before sending the Pacers to their 14th straight defeat at Staples Center.
There are truly too many good performances to highlight, but I’ll mention the ones that stood out for me. First and foremost was the defense of Ron Artest. I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now, but small forward is probably the most stacked position in the NBA (in a close battle with point guard). When you look at Ron’s recent game log you see a list of teams that employ Pierce, Carmelo, Marion, Iguodala, Gay, Butler, Gerald Wallace, and the list goes on and on. Tonight, Ron faced off against Danny Granger who is the key to Indy’s offense and one of the better offensive SF’s in the game. What did Granger do against Artest? Nine points on 2-9 shooting with four turnovers. Artest moved with a quickness and tenacity that set the tone for the Lakers’ D. A team defense that is currently ranked #1 in the NBA in defensive efficiency and one that held the Pacers to an offensive rating of 101. Ron was everywhere on defense and smothered Granger on every drive and contested almost every shot. Wherever Granger went when Artest was on him, he was blanketed and pressured and made to feel uncomfortable. I know that Artest won’t win any awards for his defense (though he should be in consideration for DPOY in my opinion) and due to the highlight quality plays that Lebron makes and the all-world defense that Tim Duncan plays, Artest probably won’t even make 1st team all defense this season. But, he’s been that level a player this year and he truly has made a difference on that end of the floor for the Lakers this season. And, tonight, when he again held the other team’s best player in check, he deserves recognition.
The other players that I thought really stepped up their games this evening were our guards. All of them. Kobe always steals the show when we talk about the Lakers guards and with good reason. And tonight when his jumper was still a bit off, Kobe was good at drawing fouls and getting to the line to rack up his points while using his post-up game to create good shots for his teammates. 24 points and 6 assists for Kobe on the evening, finding a way to be effective without his fastball. But the it was the rest of the guards that stole the show. Farmar was outrageously hot with an 8-10 performance (including 3-4 from 3 point land) for 19 points. Farmar played with aggression and poise and just kept hitting shots and finishing in the lane without ever letting up. Shannon was nearly as impressive with an all around stat line of 12/5/4/1/1 with zero turnovers and two threes made. Some of those buckets came in garbage time (remember though, the entire 4th quarter was garbage time), but his shot making was impressive and he showed confidence in his jumper while not over dribbling (too much). Even Fish got into the act with three 3 pointers made in his six attempts from distance while providing his usual organization on offense by getting people lined up in the spots where they’re needed. Just an excellent night from our guards and one that will need to be replicated down the stretch and into the playoffs.
And of course, this type of performance from our guards wouldn’t have been possible without strong play from our bigs. Bynum and Gasol were excellent again and started to show some of the chemistry that we’ve been wanting to see this season. Early in the game we saw some good high-low action with Pau hitting ‘Drew for an alley oop and also more teamwork on the offensive glass where our bigs worked well in tandem to get easy put backs. Another 30 and 24 combined for Pau and Drew and adding to that was a reserved Odom who was quite content at handling the ball and setting up his mates as he racked up a team high 7 assists. All in all, another great game for our front line as they punished the Pacers inside with strong finishes and cleaned up our defensive glass. This allowed our offense to get going by establishing our sets early in the clock where aggressive moves could be made against a defense in transition.
Overall, just a complete game for the Lakers on both ends of the floor. I understand that the Pacers aren’t the strongest team, but you can only play the team in front of you and from the time the first whistle blows to when the final buzzer sounds all you want to see is a strong performance that ends in a “W”. The Lakers got that tonight, and did it with a balanced dominance befitting the defending world champs. If they can carry this type of performance over into the upcoming road trip, I think we’d all be even happier.