With only one game left on their West Coast trip, the Indiana Pacers will try to head back home with a winning record after taking on the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pacers are currently 2-2 on their five-game West Coast trip with losses to the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.
On paper the Lakers don’t pose much of a threat to the team with the league’s best record. At 16-29, and without their best player, the Lakers are a microcosm of what they have been, let alone what they were just last season.
They have no problem scoring, averaging 100.8 points per game, but they have trouble stopping the other team from scoring, giving up 106.1 PPG. Without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have had to rely on their younger core to pick up the scoring load, especially when Pau Gasol is injured or having an off night. Nick Young took over Kobe’s spot and is averaging 17.0 PPG on 13.6 shot attempts per game.
Gasol is by far the Lakers’ best player with Kobe out, but he’s had his brush with injuries this season as well. He missed three games in late December, but has scored 20+ points in 12 of the 14 games since his last missed contest.
It will be up to the Pacers’ No. 1 defense to stop Gasol and Young if they expect to head home with a 3-2 West Coast trip record. When the trip started the Pacers were allowing their opponents to score around 88 PPG, but that number has climbed to 90.2 over the past four games, as they’ve given up an average of 109.5 PPG.
Whether or not Roy Hibbert and David West can stay out of foul trouble will be one of the bigger keys to the game. Their interior defense is why the Pacers have the No. 1 overall defense, as it causes teams to rely on low-percentage shots instead of trying to drive to the basket. But when either get into foul trouble, Hibbert especially, the dynamic of the entire defense changes. They can’t be aggressive in the post and teams are more willing to drive with the chance of sending one of the big men to the bench.
Of course, hometown boy Paul George will be the main figurehead in the game. Growing up in California, George idolized Kobe while cheering for the Los Angeles Clippers, whom he dominated a little over a week ago. George is averaging 25.8 PPG during the Pacers’ West Coast trip, 2.3 points more than his season average. With two days of rest since their last game, it will be hard to envision George not going off for at least 30 points in front of his family and friends.
Indiana will need a complete team effort to win on the road. Both games they’ve won during this trip the starters have all scored in double-digits, and the two games they’ve lost, well I’m sure you’ve guessed, they’ve not all scored in double-digits. If this was a home game for the Pacers it would be a no contest, but since it’s on the road the game is up for grabs.