Los Angeles Lakers (7-7, 100.7. ppg, 96.6 ppg allowed)
- Dwight Howard (18 ppg, 58.8% fg, 2.1 apg, 10.6 rpg)
- Pau Gasol (13.4 ppg, 43.4% fg, 3.4 apg, 9.1 rpg)
- Metta World Peace (14 ppg, 43.6% fg, 2 apg, 5.1 rpg)
- Kobe Bryant (26.9 ppg, 51% fg, 5.1 apg, 5.0 rpg)
- Darius Morris (6.8 ppg, 41.7% fg, 2.6 apg, 1.8 rpg)
Indiana Pacers (6-8, 91.2 ppg, 92.2 ppg allowed)
- Roy Hibbert (9.6 ppg, 37.9% fg, 1.5 apg, 8.7 rpg)
- David West (16.6 ppg, 45.7% fg, 2.1 apg, 8 rpg)
- Paul George (15.2 ppg, 41.1% fg, 3.1 apg, 6.6 rpg)
- Lance Stephenson (7.9 ppg, 50.6% fg, 2.8 apg, 2.9 rpg)
- George Hill (13.4 ppg, 39% fg, 5.3 apg, 4.1 rpg)
7:30 pm PST
The Los Angeles Lakers return to action against the Indiana Pacers, starting off a week with only three games after having to play four games in five nights last week (three of which were on the road). After a much needed two days off the Lakers should have plenty of energy, and plenty of momentum, after a blowout win over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Pacers have gotten off to a rocky start with a 6-8 record and Danny Granger being out for three months with knee issues hasn't helped their cause. They have had an incredibly hard time finding their offense, averaging just 91.2 points per game. That point total ranks them 29th out of 30 in the NBA in points per game, and the 41.3% field goal percentage is 28th in the league. Going over their starters, they have two players shooting under 40%. On the flip side, the Lakers have two players over 50% shooting, and the remainder of the starters are all over 40%. Rebounds will be flying off the rim for the Lakers, however, the Pacers rank 3rd in the league in total offensive rebounds, and 2nd overall in rebounding. For a front court, and team, that has routinely shown a lack of hustle on the boards (Jordan Hill, you can cover your ears on this one), they'll undoubtedly have to use their size and out work Indiana.
One player to single out for the Pacers' offensive struggles though? How about max-money big man Roy Hibbert, who has had a woeful start to his season. 9.6 points per game on 37.9% shooting is abysmal for a big man, and going up against the tandem of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard isn't going to make life any easier on Hibbert. However, Hibbert's defensive rating at 96 points per 100 possession (Dwight Howard sits at 98) through the season is very good and a key in the Pacers holding opponents to the lowest percentage in the league at 40.8%. Also, Hibbert's work on the offensive glass is what helps keep a struggling offense in games, with 4.4 offensive rebounds per game. With Danny Granger missing an extended period of time, the Pacers have had to look to their franchise centerpiece to produce wins for them, and while his offense hasn't been efficient, he's doing all the other "big man things", like leading the league in blocks per game at 3.1, to contribute. There's the good, and the bad, with Hibbert.
The Lakers, though, should be rolling against a team that will give them plenty of transition opportunities (thus, a high amount of possessions which Mike D'Antoni loves) off of missed shots. Perhaps more valuable to the Lakers than having a chance to put points on the board each trip down the court is to continue to establish chemistry and understanding as to how they will score as a unit. With Antawn Jamison coming to life off of the bench finally, look for him to help alleviate Pau Gasol who has knee tendinitis in both knees (though, with a few days off prior, and a few days off ahead, Pau's knees will get plenty of rest). Mike D'Antoni hasn't been afraid to ride Jamison at both the 3 and 4 slot, partner that with the production he's been putting up (hello, 19 points and 15 rebounds against the Mavs) and there's no reason not to shovel minutes his way like Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal advertisements being to all of our e-mail inboxes over the last week or so.
Another player to keep an eye on is Metta World Peace who has been shooting 48.7% (19-39) from deep over the last six games, and was 5-7 from long range and a key in wearing down the Mavericks early in Saturday night's game. Don't look now, but quietly MWP has pushed his points per game higher than Pau Gasol's (14 ppg to Pau's 13.4 ppg), and is shooting just a notch higher by the percentages. MWP is in the top 10 three point field goals made (34) in the league, but he's also in the top five in attemps (87). It's not just the outside shooting from MWP, though; he has been taking his defender off the dribble for easy looks around the rim, which can become a regularity while teams attaching their best perimeter defender to Kobe Bryan't hip.
As far as Kobe Bryant goes, his table setting to start the game against Dallas ensured his teammates all ate well. However, reports indicate he is a game-time decision tonight, having his annual "flu-like symptoms" tag. If the Lakers do have to play without Bryant, however, the Lakers offense may hit a severe hitch as Steve Nash is still out "indefinitely", and Steve Blake continues to miss time. Without a perimeter facilitator, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Lakers funnel the ball down-low to Dwight Howard in the post to force early doubles and create open looks for the sudden emergence of the team's three point shooting proficiency. Of course, this can all mean very little, as Kobe Bryant will play through nearly anything. What's a silly little flu to the Black Mamba?
This is one of those games that the Lakers should win. The good teams win the games they are supposed to, and while the Pacers defense may be one of the better in the league, the sheer amount of possessions the Lakers will get through picking up defensive boards against one of the worst shooting teams in the league will give them more than enough bullets in the chamber to push their record above .500 once again. Expect many, many field goal attempts tonight from the purple and gold. With a win like they had against the Mavericks it's important to ride the momentum they built and even if Kobe Bryant were to miss playing the Lakers should still have enough in the tank for a victory tonight. On the birthday of the late, great, Chick Hearn one can only hope the Lakers give him the go ahead for a "This game's in the refrigerator, the door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard, and the Jell-O's jigglin'," call from up top.
On This Soundtrack
Metallica - Shoot Me Again
I won't go away
Right here I'll stay
Stand silent in flames
Stand tall 'till it fades
Shoot me again
I ain't dead yet
Shoot me again
All these shots I take
I spit back at you
All the [redacted] you fake
Comes back to haunt you
All the shots
All the shots I take
What difference did I make?
All the shots I take
I spit back at you
I won't go away, with a bullet in my back
Right here I'll stay, with a bullet in my back
Shoot me take a shot
I'll stand on my own, with a bullet in my back
I'm stranded and sold, with a bullet in my back
I bite my tongue
Trying not to shoot back
My heart won't pump the other way
Wake the sleeping giant
Wake the beast
Wake the sleeping dog
No, Let him sleep
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