Later this week, the Lakers will return home to Los Angeles for the first time since Dec. 8. However, before they escape the blistering cold winters of the central United States, they have to play two more games, starting with Tuesday’s matchup with the Indiana Pacers.
The Lakers and the Pacers split the season series 1-1 last season, but both teams have gone through drastic changes since the last time they met. In fact, just 10 players from last year’s rosters — five from each team — will be active on Tuesday, not including Kyle Kuzma and Victor Oladipo, who have already been ruled out.
Luckily for both teams, the changes were for the better. Despite starting the season 0-3, the Pacers are the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with an 18-9 record thanks in large part to their commitment to the defensive end. Not only do they have a two-way force at the point guard position in Malcolm Brogdon, but they also have a solid, three-man rotation in the front court with Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and rookie Goga Bitadze, who leads the Pacers in defensive box plus-minus (+4). As a result, they’re ranked fifth in defensive rating. Equally impressive, they allow the second-fewest fast break points in the NBA.
But as good as the Pacers have been as a team on defense this season, there are still a few holes the Lakers can exploit. For example, the Pacers are ranked 18th in the league in opponent points in the paint per game (48.5) and their perimeter defense has been wildly inconsistent. If LeBron James can get the Lakers’ shooters going early, their chances of coming out on top increase substantially. James may have to do more than usual on offense, too, if Davis isn’t cleared to play.
The Lakers have beaten better teams than the Pacers this season, but Indiana is still one of the tougher opponents they’ve seen on their schedule so far, and Los Angeles could be missing a key player. If the Lakers don’t come out of the tunnel ready to play, their 14-game road winning streak could come to and end on Tuesday.
Notes and Updates
- Anthony Davis was originally listed as questionable to play against the Pacers on Tuesday. He is now out.
The Lakers say that Anthony Davis (ankle) is out tonight vs. IND.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 17, 2019
- Kyle Kuzma, as previously mentioned, is out.
- Victor Oladipo was revealed as The Thingamajig on FOX’s “The Masked Singer” last week.
The game will tip-off at 4 p.m. PST on NBA TV nationally and Spectrum SportsNet locally.