Going into Wednesday night’s game, the Los Angeles Lakers had the opportunity to end their season having beaten all but one team at least once: the reigning champion Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately, after a lackluster night from the Lakers’ starting lineup, there’s one more team they have to add to that short list: the Indiana Pacers.
That’s right: the Lakers lost their second and final matchup of the season with the Pacers 123-115. For context, the Lakers lost by just three points in their first meeting with the Pacers, but Indiana didn’t have Victor Oladipo the first time around. With Oladipo on the active roster, the Pacers had the closer they needed to pull away from the Lakers in the second half.
After trailing by just three points going into halftime, the Lakers allowed the Pacers outscore them 68-57 in the second half. Oladipo led the Pacers with a season-high 30 points. Meanwhile, their forward tandem of T.J. Warren and Domantas Sabonis scored a combined 43 points. With all due respect to Warren and Sabonis, the latter of whom was voted as an All-Star this season, there’s no reason that LeBron James and Anthony Davis should have been outplayed by Warren and Sabonis.
In actuality, James and Davis’ combined scoring total (37) wasn’t that far off from Warren and Sabonis, but their production on the defensive end wasn’t there. For just the fourth time this season, Davis didn’t record a single block against the Pacers. That would have been less of an issue if someone else stepped up, but JaVale McGee was the only player that recorded a block, and it was only one. That’s just not going to get it done.
What really hurt the Lakers’ down the stretch, though, was Dion Waiters’ shot selection. With six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Waiters had 2 points on 1-3 shooting from the field. By the end of the fourth quarter, he had five points on 2-10 shooting from the field.
With Waiters struggling as bad as he was, Frank Vogel should have called on one of his guards sitting on the bench, but once again, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley and Alex Caruso were healthy scratches. This has become a huge problem for the Lakers, and it needs to be addressed. If it’s not, Vogel might not make it to the end of the season.
The Lakers will be back at it on Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings.