What was looking like a potential win has gotten less exciting with the news that Lonzo Ball (knee) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (achilles) will be out against the Indiana Pacers on Friday. But this should still be a close and exciting game. This Lakers game preview will get into how Nigel Hayes may have an impact this game and what we’ll probably see from Indiana.
The Lakers offense changes without Lonzo, both schematically and in terms of energy. Little staggering of lineups by Luke Walton has made it more difficult for the new mashups of the first and second units to succeed quickly. Adding Hayes to the picture also muddles the chemistry of lineups, but this is an opportunity for LA to work through those growing pains and try to come together to beat a team who has won five of seven games and has one of the best offenses in the league.
The key to winning this game will be slowing down Indiana offensively. The Lakers’ offense has been below average in 13 of the last 15 games. What they’ll need to lean on is their defense, which has kept them in games all season and has been great, other than that six game stretch without Lonzo. He didn’t have everything to do with that stretch being so rough, but he is a big part of this defense and the drop off from him to his backups is large defensively. Lonzo does have the third highest DRPM of all point guards, and Jacob Goldstein’s Adjustable Player Impact Plus-Minus tool has LA 8.4 points better defensively per 100 possessions with Lonzo on the floor. We’re going to need a real team effort to turn that around and defend well enough to stay in this game, and a lot of that will be on whoever between Clarkson, Ennis, Caruso, and Payton is playing point for LA.
We (or at least I) want Nigel. And we’ll probably get him. The new Laker is only on a ten day contract, so the clock is ticking for LA to decide if he’s a valuable piece or if they should start looking for the next ten day G-Leauge player.
Hayes will likely be slotting in at the SF position with the backup unit. Something like a lineup of Payton/Caruso-Clarkson-Hayes-Kuzma-Nance is where we’ll probably see him most, with Hart and Ennis likely joining the starters.
Hayes will probably give LA a couple spot up looks and perhaps a post up or two. I’d use him as a spot up shooter and also in the post as a facilitator first, then letting him go to work if the passes aren’t there. Set plays like this one we’ve seen recently should work well.
This play is also nice against Indiana especially because Thaddeus Young, whose defense will be tested with this play with him defending the 4 (Kuzma), is a poor off-ball defender. He has a tendency to fall asleep, and post feeds for a team that normally just stands and watches in the post is a great way to lull him to sleep and strike.
Xs and Os: What Indiana Will Try To Do
The Pacers’ offense is a rather simple one. There isn’t much going on in terms of set plays with off screen or handoff actions. A lot of their offense is generated through pick and roll plays with Victor Oladipo as their ball handler. From those chances, he’ll generate lots of shots for himself, as well as kickouts and dump offs.
Oladipo does a nice job attacking the rim, but is also a smart player and finds the short roll man well. That’s a place where Sabonis has recently thrived since Myles Turner recently went down. He’s taken a step forward with his decision making in those situations and Indiana is profiting off of it.
One play I did see on film scouting Indiana for my podcast game preview, the Locked on Pacers game preview, and this piece, is a play I’d call “54 Dribble Flip.” It’s a mediocre set play, but one that should be effective against a switching Laker defense.
The play starts out in a horns setup, with the wings at the corners and the bigs at the elbows. Sabonis will set a screen for Young, who pops out to receive the ball. If LA doesn’t switch this, it might be a catch and shoot 3-pointers for Young. If Lopez helps out too far, he’s leaving an open lane for Sabonis (5) to cut to the rim for a lob after setting the screen. This is the “54” part of the play name (5 screens for 4).
So let’s assume LA switches. Collison passes the ball to Young.
After the pass, Collison will clear out to the (soon to be) opposite corner. Bogdanovic will raise to the wing, and Sabonis will set up at the (soon to be) opposite block waiting for a dump off. Turner will dribble over to Oladipo in the corner to hand off the ball. This is the “dribble” part of the play name.
If it’s overplayed, Oladipo will back cut the coverage and potentially have a dunk. If it’s not switched, there’s no help defense and likely either Oladipo will be able to turn the corner or Young will have an open roll. So let’s assume LA switches this as well.
So now Oladipo is attacking Lopez (who was switched onto Young (4)) and Young is looking to either pop or bury LA’s shooting guard in the post. This will be great against Lopez’s relative lack of footspeed compared to the rest of the Laker bigs. It would’ve been great against KCP if he were to play (he’s injured) and his post defense that has given up 22 makes on 28 shots this year. Clarkson has also been poor in the post this year defensively (23rd percentile post PPP), but Josh Hart (46th percentile) should be able to hold his ground a little better.
This is a specific play we’ll likely see, but the idea of attacking LA’s switches with Oladipo drives against bigs and Indiana’s bigs posting up LA down low when they have mismatches is something the Pacers have shown they will do and will have the opportunity to do.
With Lonzo, this would be a tough but winnable game. Without Lonzo and KCP, I don’t like our chances. My model, taking into account the Lonzo, KCP, and Turner injuries and the backups playing more because of those injuries, Indiana on a back to back, and the game being in LA has Indiana by 4.
That’s a lot closer than I thought it’d be. The spread (at the time I’m writing this) is Indiana by 2. I’d probably guess Pacers by 6.
Where you can watch: 7:30 pm PST start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.