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Lakers vs. Pacers Preview: An opportunity to capitalize

This is the perfect opportunity for the Lakers to take advantage of a team that has lost nine out of their last 10 games.

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

The Lakers will continue their current six-game road trip in Indiana where they face the Pacers for their fourth game in six nights. They’ll be going up against Andrew Nembhard (who still gives Lakers fans nightmares because of his game-winning buzzer-beater in their last tilt) and the Pacers (24-28) who have been struggling as of late. This is the perfect opportunity for the purple and gold to take advantage of a team that has lost nine out of their last 10 games.

In fact, it’s not just the Pacers that’s fallen off as of late. The Lakers’ next three opponents, including the New Orleans Pelicans (who have lost nine straight games) and the Oklahoma City Thunder, are as beatable as well — and if the purple and gold want to bounce back from all the losses they’ve given away (including their last matchup against the Pacers) then now is the time.

The good news for this Lakers team is that they’re coming off a feel-good victory against the New York Knicks, where they finally found a way to close out a game and win in overtime. And unlike in their last matchup against the Pacers, L.A. now has a wing-forward in Rui Hachimura, who continues to prove as each game passes that he’s a seamless fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Since Hachimura’s arrival in Los Angeles, he’s played exactly 40 minutes together with James and Davis in three games and in those minutes, the trio is a +13.6. The Japanese native had his best game as a Laker last Tuesday, where he ranked up 19 points, nine rebounds, shot 50% (2-4) from the 3-point line, and had a crucial block late in overtime that propelled the Lakers to victory. Hachimura is already part of the closing lineup, which means he’s likely going to be playing significant minutes moving forward.

Aside from Hachimura’s presence, what can be the difference in this game is if the Lakers learn from their mistakes in their previous battle against the Pacers. It would be nice if they limit Indiana into shooting 34.7% from the 3-point line again, especially given that this team ranks sixth best in the league in 3-pointers makes and attempts per game.

Second, L.A. cannot allow the Pacers to score 46 points in the paint again. And most importantly, it would be absolutely best if they keep their foot on the gas, don’t blow a 15-point lead with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, and leave Nembhard open to attempt a game-winning 3-point attempt. This game will test the Lakers’ composure, whether they’re going to grit through another close game again or a potential blowout victory on the road.

And finally, a fun matchup to look out for in this game is the one between Davis and who could’ve been his front court running mate, Myles Turner. Turner, who recently just signed an extension with the Pacers, has been trying to pick up the slack since Tyrese Haliburton’s injury, averaging 19.4 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. It’s going to be exciting to see which one of these two will have both the offensive and defensive edge for the night.

We’ll also see if the Lakers learned a thing or two in their previous heartbreaking loss to the Pacers, and if they can tie up their current road trip stint to 2-2 on Thursday.

Notes and Updates

  • LeBron James is now just 89 points away (38,299) from surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the all-time NBA scoring list.
  • For the injury report, the Lakers are listing Patrick Beverley (left knee soreness) and Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) as probable. LeBron James (left ankle soreness) is questionable while Austin Reaves (left hamstring strain), Scotty Pippen Jr (G-League), and Cole Swider (G-League) will be with the South Bay Lakers.
  • Haliburton, who has been out of the Pacers lineup due to an elbow and knee injury, is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow, per Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle. The home team is listing Daniel Theis (right knee surgery) as questionable as well as their two-way players Travelin Queen (G-League) and Kendall Brown (G-League).
  • The NBA postponed the matchup between the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards due to weather conditions tonight. Meanwhile, the Lakers’ next game against the Pelicans on Saturday will be moved to 3 p.m. PT according to the NBA.

The Lakers and Pacers will tip off at 4 p.m. PT on Wednesday. The game will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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