The turnaround is real. The hype is real. Written off comically earlier in the season, the Los Angeles Lakers have gone on an absolute tear as of late, winning seven of their last nine games and putting themselves in the playoffs, something that would have never been imaginable when the team was treated as an NBA sideshow, a proverbial laughing stock for the league.
Currently the eight seed in the Western Conference, the Lakers came into Friday night’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in a form of disarray, but stunned Indiana 99-93, with the clutch late bucket coming from the team’s inconsistent big-man, Dwight Howard. The team was without its superstar Kobe Bryant who stated he would play despite severely turning his ankle only two days prior.
The Indiana Pacers are certainly not the team that anyone wants to play with an injured captain. The Pacers are not only second in the Eastern Conference standings, but hold the fifth best home record in the league and second best team defense to boot.
Kobe Bryant in theory would need to put up a heroic effort and rebound from injury to put up one of his career performances that have propelled him to a household name. Mamba, Vino, Kobe, none of the star’s alter egos showed up Friday in Indianapolis.
Rather, for the 15th time in his 17 year career, Kobe was held to zero points, and Kobe didn’t play a single minute outside of the first quarter in a game which saw both teams shoot below 30% much of the game. Kobe was a driving force on the bench, coaching his team emotionally and physically, at one point Kobe was seen drawing on a whiteboard for Dwight Howard.
Five Lakers scored over fifteen points, and Dwight Howard had 12 rebounds to go along with 20 points. Metta World Peace contributed 19 points and Steve Blake proved to be a key factor, the Lakers being a +21 when Blake was on the floor.
For the Pacers, the game was lost by their defense which has won them so many games. Late, the Lakers could simply not be stopped. Despite 27 points from George Hill and 20 from Paul George, an emerging superstar in his own right, there was simply not enough defense late. The Lakers ended up shooting 40% from the field, including 13-26 (50%) from three.
The Lakers will make it into the playoffs; at least it looks that way. When they make it, they will play a matchup as an underdog, much like they did Friday in Indiana. However, they will be equipped with both a healthy Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. And if they show up like they did versus the Pacers, Kobe will be the first to tell you, the Lakers will “be a huge problem”.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486