After dropping their last two games, the Los Angeles Lakers will tip-off a nine day long road trip on Monday in Indiana against the Pacers, a team they have already beaten once this season.
In their first season without Paul George in seven years, the Pacers are on pace to finish with their best record since the 2013-14 season, which was also the last season of Lance Stephenson’s first stint with Indiana. Now in his first full season back in Indiana, the Pacers are playing their best basketball since he left.
While it’s fun to joke that Stephenson is the reason the Pacers are exciting again, their surprise season wouldn’t have been made possible without the tremendous play of breakout star Victor Oladipo, who is coming fresh off his first appearance in the NBA All-Star game.
Once the center of what many considered a lopsided trade at the time, Oladipo looks like the player everyone thought he was going to be when he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2013, and then some.
In his first season with the Pacers, Oladipo is averaging 23.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and a league-leading 2.3 steals per game (all career-highs). If he isn’t handed the Most Improved Player award at the end of this season, next season is cancelled.
Everything the Pacers do and will do on Monday is through Oladipo. The Lakers did a good job of holding him to under 20 percent shooting from behind the arc in their first matchup, but still let him score 25 points. With their wing depth as thin as it is, the Lakers can’t afford to let Oladipo get his shots up early.
Other players to watch include Bojan Bogdanovic, who is shooting 40 percent from 3, and Myles Turner, who can give the Lakers’ bigs problems offensively and defensively with his length and mobility at the center position.
It’s not going to be easy, but an upset win after two discouraging performances could be what this team needs to get back on track. Enjoy the game!
Time: 4:00 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet