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Lakers vs. Pacers Preview: All eyes on the young core ahead of the NBA trade deadline

With lingering eyes on the young core of the Lakers as the trade deadline approaches, the Indiana Pacers will be the next roadblock for a team that may send half its roster to different cities by the end of the week.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The rumor mill has been churning overtime about possible destinations for Anthony Davis if the New Orleans Pelicans can secure half a starting lineup and multiple first-round draft picks in return. The Los Angeles Lakers have been the most-often speculated landing spot for the big man, even if it seems talks are going to quiet down for now.

Oh yeah, and a roster full of players that could be shipped out any minute and have heard their name in trade rumors all week will play a basketball game in Indiana tonight against the Pacers.

The Lakers have handled those rumors well so far, in part due to James’ return from a groin injury. The Lakers have not lost a game he played in since then, and their 1-1 record since he got back is looking better than the 6-11 stretch the Lakers had when he was out of the lineup.

But even with a nearly fully recovered James, the Pacers won’t be an easy match.

The Pacers have found their rhythm without Victor Oladipo, pulling out wins against the Miami Heat and Pelicans, the latter of which featured Bojan Bogdanovic dropping 31 points and Domantas Sabonis emerge as a steady hand with 13 rebounds and 16 points against New Orleans.

Indiana is currently in a three-way tie with the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings, as each are 5.5 games back from the Milwaukee Bucks for first place.

Even without leading-scorer Oladipo, the Pacers are still a quality team. The Lakers can’t overlook this opponent (or any as they attempt to climb back into the playoff picture).

James announcing he’ll play tonight will help with that. When the Lakers faced the Pacers in November, James had his second-highest scoring night in the season with 38 points, and his point-per-minute performance pushed the Lakers to a 104-96 win over Indiana.

Brandon Ingram also looks set to help amid a strong recent stretch of play, as in the Lakers’ loss to the Golden State Warriors, he led the Lakers with 20 points. That capped off a five-game stretch that saw Ingram drop 117 points total.

As time ticks closer to the deadline, this will be the last game Los Angeles will play before their post-deadline tip off against the Boston Celtics on Feb. 7. This might also be the final opportunity fans get to see many of these players in a Lakers uniform, although this group will have to once again ignore that possibility if they want to fight for the chance to get the Lakers into a playoff series.

Even if these players themselves might not even get to play in it.

The Lakers will face the Pacers at 4:00 p.m. PST on Spectrum SportsNet. All stats per and You can follow Megan on Twitter @garciamegan_.

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