LOS ANGELES– It was much of the same for the Los Angeles Lakers in their first game back at Staples Center since Jan.18 and on Jerry Buss bobblehead night, they suffered their 17th loss in the last 20 games on Tuesday in 104-92 defeat to the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers were lead by forward Lance Stephenson, who scored 10 of 15 points in the game in the third quarter after the teams exchanged 14 lead changes in the first half and Indiana’s had their first halftime tie of the season.
Indiana began the second half with a 10-2 run to take a 59-51 lead. Pacers’ defense held the Lakers to just 41 shooting in the third quarter. The Pacers took a 79-69 advantage into the fourth quarter thanks in part to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Paul George.
Los Angeles did not get any closer than seven points in the fourth quarter as Indiana answered with a 9-0 run to push their lead to 15 points. It was a balanced and dominating effort by Indiana as they had six players in double figures including their entire starting lineup.
“The Pacers became the Pacers. They played well,” head coach Mike D’Antoni of the third quarter. “We missed some wide open shots to open up the third quarter. The Pacers turned up the heat a little bit, made it a little harder for us. They’re a very good basketball team. I thought our guys battled, I thought we played as hard as we could play, but a couple (of) things went their way and they separated a little bit.”
The Pacers, who hold the league’s best record at 35-9, held true to form as they dominated the paint outscoring the Lakers 58-44 and outrebounded Los Angeles 63-50. Indiana is now 24-2 when scoring more points in the paint than their opponent and 31-1 when leading after three quarters.
With rebounding continuing to be a consistent problem for the Lakers, Pau Gasol believes it has to be a team effort in order to fix that area of weakness.
“It has to be a team effort,” Gasol said, who had his fifth straight double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. “Everyone has to come in the paint. Get aggressive with people when there is so much penetration. You have to crack back on the big guys. Feel them and don’t allow them to get to the board. Little things like that can make a big difference. We just have to scramble more.”
Indiana was able to control majority of the game despite a bad shooting night from George as he shot 4-21 from the field with 14 points. But for Jodie Meeks it was the Pacers’ defensive effort as they held Los Angeles to just 39 percent shooting from the field.
“They’re a tough team,” Meeks said, who had his third 20-point game three out of the last four games with 21 points on Tuesday. “They played great defense, so they kind of got us into their flow a little bit and it was hard to get going.”
Entering the game, Indiana had struggled defensively in the past three games as they allowed 100-plus points to each of their opponent, but turned it around Tuesday night as they held the Lakers to 92 points.
Despite shooting 39 percent in the first quarter with George shooting 1-0f-7 from the field, the Pacers lost the lead just once at 10-9 and responded with a 8-0 run to give themselves a quarter-high seven-point advantage. The Lakers shot just percentage points higher from the field in the quarter with Kendall Marshall leading the team with seven points and two assists.
After Los Angeles tied the game at 28 with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter, the remainder of the period featured much back and forth action with eight lead changes. Gasol lead the way offensive with six of his 10 points to go along with six rebounds in the first half and Marshall dished out six of his 13 assists in the game.
Pau Gasol injured
Gasol revealed after Tuesday’s loss that he has been dealing with a groin issue over the past few days and it bothered him throughout the game.
“It’s been bothering me a little bit, but tonight it bothered me from the beginning (of the game), ” Gasol said. ” I didn’t do anything really explosive today. I tried to loosen it up by jogging in place but nothing helped.”
The 33-year-old plans to take the day off Wednesday and have his groin re-evaluated on Thursday. Gasol also added that he doesn’t see himself missing any length of time due to the injury.
“He had some sort of groin issue at the half and he came out (of the locker room) late,” D’Antoni said. “I am sure he will rest tomorrow and we will find out Friday.”