Anthony Davis was crucial in the win. He is fully back, showing why he should have been an All-Star by dominating with 31 points and 14 rebounds, including a crucial bucket to put the Lakers ahead for good and a block to keep them there. LeBron James took a while to ramp up, but was sensational in the fourth and ended the night with 26 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds. It is truly remarkable how the 20-year vet can make an extraordinary performance feel like just another game.
L.A. is now 25-28, and if the New Orleans Pelicans lose to the Dallas Mavericks tonight, the Lakers will be able to catch up to their conference rival and reach play-in positioning with a win on Saturday vs. New Orleans.
The opening 12 minutes were not ideal for the purple and gold on either end. Unfortunately for them, the Pacers were shooting the lights out, going 7-13 from downtown in the opening frame. Part of this is because they have great shooters like Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton; the other part was just poor defense. Going under screens, not closing out on shooters and poor rotations gave Indy open looks, and they made L.A. pay. The deficit ballooned to as many as 13 but deflated down to five by the end of the quarter.
The rest of the first half was more of the same. Hield continued to hit threes and Myles Turner went deep, forcing Ham to use a timeout to try and slow down Indiana’s momentum.
The closing minutes of the half were a prime example of how bad the Lakers’ perimeter defense had been all night. AD tried to recover on defense, but when a pass was made from the corner to the wing, he took a step forward but refused to contest. The result was an Andrew Nembhard three. On the next possession, Rui closed out too hard and fouled Aaron Nesmith giving him a four-point play.
At the half, the Lakers trailed by double-digits.
Earlier in the season, the Lakers were notorious for collapsing in the third quarter, but as of late, that has not been the case.
The Lakers have been a bad 3rd quarter team this season, but if it's seemed like they've been better lately it's not some figment of your imagination. In their last 10 games, here's the Lakers 3rd quarter stats:— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) January 31, 2023
Tonight, however, they were unable to get anything going offensively in the third. Russ was Bad Russ. Or as some simply call him, Russ. He was forcing bad shots unprompted, turning the ball over and getting rejected near the rim. Only AD was a bright spot, with many putbacks and cleaning up missed shots near the rim.
But in the fourth, believe it or not, the L.A. got back into the game. LeBron hit a three with over two minutes to go to give the Lakers their first lead of the game and they were very much in it. After a pair of James free throws, an AD runner and a key defensive block by Davis and the Lakers had control of the game.
Of course, the game couldn’t end calmly.
Pat Bev missed a pair of free throws and suddenly the Pacers had the ball down one with 6.1 seconds left. Then Buddy Hield, of all players, missed the game-winner and the Lakers officially secured the win as Davis snatched the contested rebound and brought it to the ground.
All season, the Lakers have found ways to lose. Today they found ways to win, stealing a victory from the jaws of defeat everything went their way. Indy’s shooting went cold, Bron went off, and a couple of calls went their way to secure the win.
Now the biggest game of the season so far is happening on Saturday against the Pelicans. If they can secure a win, they will be right in the play-in picture and maybe give Rob Pelinka and the Lakers front office enough evidence to make a move to give Bron and AD a chance in a wide-open West.