The Pacers tried to go big, they tried to go small, but it ultimately didn’t matter as the Lakers rolled to a 122-99 victory, the 10th straight year L.A. has beaten Indiana in Los Angeles.
“They’re the ultimate test period,” said Pacers coach Jim O’Brien. “It doesn’t matter what lineup that you put out there when you play the World Champions … you know you’re going to be tested at every spot.”
Indy hung around in the first half, trailing by just six at halftime before L.A. burst out of the halftime gates with a 38-17 third quarter, dealing quite easily with whatever personnel Indiana had on the floor.
“It looked like (we) got something back in the third quarter, came up with some steals and shot some balls,” said Phil Jackson. “They made things happen on the offensive end. It was a good win for us.”
While O’Brien started Hibbert, he played only 21 minutes, as the Pacers played small for most of the game with forward Troy Murphy at the center spot. Rewind back to L.A.’s 118-96 victory in Indianapolis in January, when Andrew Bynum destroyed such a small Pacers lineup, making his first four shots to put L.A. up 18-8. In the second half of that game, the Pacers started Hibbert and played him a fair amount in sum (28 minutes), but the Lakers still outscored Indy 33-22 in the third quarter to put the game on ice. Bynum finished with a season high 27 points.
Though he needed to play just 26 minutes as Phil Jackson rested his starters in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Bynum operated with ease yet again, making 6-of-8 shots for 16 points. Pau Gasol added 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and the Lakers edged Indy 56-44 in the paint.
“Their length (is tough),” O’Brien explained. “They had 20 offensive rebounds* in Indiana, they murdered us on the glass. They murder a lot of people on the glass. They’re big and long and the triangle offense is one that gives you constantly good weakside rebounding. They just have all the ingredients.”
*L.A. had only 10 offensive boards on Tuesday in part due to 51.7 percent shooting and 24 free throw attempts.
Indy’s unconventional style helped keep things close early, as the Pacers took 14 three-pointers (making seven) in the first half in part by taking advantage of Murphy’s – who hit two threes – presence on the perimeter.
“They play a style of ball that is unique,” said Phil Jackson. “They really don’t start out in the low post. Our defense is generated off what normal NBA teams would run. We kind of load up our players, overload the sideline and make teams swing it, but this is a team we can’t play that normal type of defense against.”
But in the second half, the Lakers upped their intensity on D and absolutely stormed the Pacers in the third quarter, outscoring the visitors 38-17 in the period keyed by the individual play of Ron Artest. L.A.’s starting small forward holding his past six individual matchups under their average, completely neutralized Danny Granger, holding the 23.0 ppg scorer to just nine points on 2-of-9 shooting for the game, and came up with five steals in the third quarter alone.
“His defense was very good,” said Jackson, who added that the Lakers are better adjusting as a team to what Artest can do individually.
Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant attacked the rim (10 of his 24 points), Bynum dunked (two hammers), Derek Fisher hit his third three and Pau Gasol hit the glass (five boards in the period). Then Jordan Farmar, Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown came in and flew around on defense, forcing turnovers and finishing at the other end for 11 total points.
“They’re big, they’re strong, they have great inside-outside game and one of the great scorers in the game,” said O’Brien. “They’re a terrific basketball team.”
The Purple and Gold pushed their lead to as many as 32 early in the fourth quarter and had each starter on the pine with 8:25 to go in the period, the bench content to seal a 122-99 victory thanks primarily to 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting from Farmar and 12 points from Shannon Brown.
Up next is a tough three-game trek through the South East, starting with a Thursday evening contest in Miami against the Heat.
Until then, your numbers:
5 Steals in the third quarter by Ron Artest, a game after he notched six thefts against Denver. Artest also held Indiana’s leading scorer Danny Granger (23.0 ppg) to just nine points on 2-of-9 shooting.
14 Free throws made by Kobe Bryant, who began attacking the basket after struggling with his jumper early, missing his first five shots. He finished with 24 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
19 Points off the bench from Jordan Farmar, who was hot in making 8-of-10 shots including 3-of-4 from three-point range.
38 Points scored by L.A. in a big third quarter in which they allowed only 17 points to the Pacers to break the game wide open.
122 Points scored in the game for the Lakers, including 71 combined in the second and third quarter.