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Preview: Lakers vs. Pacers

The Lakers (34-32) head to Indiana to conclude their 3-game road trip possibly without Kobe Bryant in the lineup.

Bryant suffered his worst ankle sprain in 13 years on a very controversial play against the Hawks on Wednesday when Dahntay Jones clearly drove his right leg underneath Kobe, who was taking one of his usual fadeaway shot in an attempt to tie the game at 94 with 5 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Bryant was on the floor writhing in pain for several seconds before his teammates helped him up and walked gingerly towards the sideline.

It didn't look good for Kobe when the injury happened and certainly looked even worse when he twitted a picture of his injured ankle via Twitter. But according to LA Times' Mike Bresnahan, Kobe's availability for tonight's matchup with the Indiana Pacers (40-24) will be a game-time decision.

This would be certainly good news for the team and Lakers fans should Kobe play tonight, but the Lakers can't give that sigh of relief and think that they can continue to rely on Bryant to lead them offensively against the 2nd best team in the east.

The Lakers may have won 3 of their last 5 games in Indiana, but that is mostly due to Kobe's 30 points per game average in those games. As much of a die-hard competitor Bryant is, it would be unrealistic to expect another 30-point performance out of him tonight. Of course, Laker fans would love to see the Mamba continue his tear since the All-Star break, but severe ankle sprains limit a player's mobility and verticality so much that it's wishful thinking to anticipate the same old Kobe tonight.

The Pacers are not only the best rebounding team (45.6 RPG) in the NBA, they also have the 2nd-best defense allowing just 89.7 points per contest. The Pacers have size and have guys who are physical on the defensive end. One of those guys is Roy Hibbert.

Hibbert leads his team in rebounding averaging 8 boards a game, but he's 3rd in the league in block shots getting 2.7 swats per game. He only got 8 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks against the Lakers at Staples Center back in November. However, he's been getting 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks a contest in the month of March. No doubt, he's that one player the Lakers need to be mindful of in the paint and around the glass.

It's a bit odd that the Pacers only average 94.2 points per game as a team since they have a lot of weapons offensively. If you're the Lakers defense, you have to start with Paul George.

George leads the Pacers with his 17.6 points per game average, and he is one of the most versatile scorers around. He can put up points from anywhere on the floor and loves to attack the rim since he's also one of the most athletic players in the game.

Then, the Lakers have to worry about David West (who is one of the most proficent mid-range-shooting big), Lance Stephenson (who is emerging as a threat on both ends of the floor), and George Hill. If you remember, Hill's high-bank shot layup over Dwight Howard was the one that got the Pacers their 79-77 victory over the Lakers in the previous meeting.

If the Lakers want to have a shot at returning the favor tonight, every player that steps on the floor will have to elevate their game on both baskets with or without Kobe.

This Lakers are looking to even out their series with Indiana in this final meeting of the regular season. The purple and gold haven't lost on the road against the Pacers since Dec. 2, 2008.

INJURY UPDATE: According to ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin, there's a slight chance that Pau Gasol could make his long-awaited return tonight in Indiana via his Twitter handle:

 

Matchup of the Game

Dwight Howard vs. Roy Hibbert: With Bryant hurt, Howard has to be that guy who has to take over the load for the Lakers. Hibbert may have the size advantage and ability to knock down a decent mid-range shot over him, but Dwight still has the strength, athleticism and foot-speed edge over Roy. Plus, Howard has the experience over Hibbert when it comes to being the go-to guy in the post. But the key in this matchup will be foul trouble. Howard is 2nd in the league in personal fouls averaging 3.8 per game while Hibbert is committing 3.5 fouls a game.

Keys to the Game

> Teamwork: Regardless of Kobe's availability, the Lakers won't win unless they do everything on the floor as a team. Their offense has to be aggressive but make sure ball movement is a priority. Defensively, they have to help out on penetrations and be active. Then, they have to help out Howard on the boards by doing the fundamentals and chasing after those missed shots as well.

> Fast Start: Against the Pacers last time, the Lakers shot 31.6% as a team and scored only 33 points in the opening half. Bad free-throw shooting (23-of-53) probably made more of a difference in the outcome of that game, but another slow start around the perimeter tonight will not bode well for the Lakers.

> Dwight Howard: If Howard dominates the paint, that will open up the perimeter game for the Lakers. The Pacers defense may be tops in the paint (51.7%) and from behind the arc (34.2%), but Howard usually shoots well against them. He had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting against Indiana in November. Plus, Steve Nash and Steve Blake were out for the Lakers in that game. If Howard comes out aggressive and scoring in the post, the Pacers have no choice but to send in that extra defender or two in the paint.

Watch Out For

LAKERS: Steve Nash: With Bryant injured, it's probably a good bet that Nash will take it upon himself to step-up his game tonight. Even at 39, he has shown that he can still score and make the defense turn their heads one way while he goes the other way. But, he also has to make sure Hill doesn't get to the hoop easy through picks and off the dribble.

PACERS: David West: West had a monster game against the Lakers last time with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 blocks. If the Lakers continue to let him shoot from outside instead of forcing him to put the ball on the floor, West will continue to be a problem for the Lakers.

Game Info

Tonight
@ Indiana Pacers
Tip-off: 4:00 p.m. (PST)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW

Injury Notes

LAKERS: Kobe Bryant (ankle) is game-time decision. Pau Gasol (foot) and Jordan Hill (hip) are out.

PACERS: Danny Granger (knee) is out.

Preview: Lakers vs. Pacers

Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers

It’s the second game of the second of a back-to-back for the Lakers (34-11) and the fifth game overall in this two-week road swing. Tonight, they’re at the Conseco Fieldhouse to take on the Indiana Pacers (16-29) — another mediocre team but a team that has given the defending champs some fits in the past.

The Lakers have a 3-7 record playing in this arena since it opened in 1999, including dropping five of their last 6 visits. They would’ve improved that record last season if they hadn’t surrendered a 16-point fourth quarter lead which led to Troy Murphy‘s game-winning tip-in for an embarassing 118-117 loss for the purple and gold. Then, the Pacers came to Staples Center and forced the Lakers to beat them on Kobe Bryant’s 18-ft. turnaround jumper.

Franchise player Danny Granger has had his way with the Lakers averaging 30 points in their two matchups last season. So it’s needless to say Granger must be contained tonight or the Lakers could see losing to another team they should’ve beaten. Ron Artest will have the first crack at him, but their success in defending Granger will rely upon how well the Lakers will support Artest (or whoever else) as a team.

Granger returned early this month from a torn right plantar fascia suffered on Dec. 6th. He is averaging 23.6 PPG and 5.7 RPG so far this season.

But Granger isn’t the only having success in this matchup. Bryant is averaging 29.5 points against the Pacers for the past 4 seasons. Kobe has guarded Granger somewhat before, but Granger has yet to go up against Bryant and will most likely never will. Indiana signed a so-called defender for guys like Kobe over the summer.

Dahntay Jones was with Denver last year when he resorted to some cheap tricks against Kobe in that much-heated Western Conference Finals last year. Having failed guarding Bryant over and over again, Jones purposely tripped Kobe in one play that resulted in him getting a flagrant-1 foul by the league the following day. Of course, that ended his stint against Bryant and his one-year stop with the Nuggets. But like they say, you can run but you can’t hide. He’ll be facing Kobe for the first time this season tonight.

The Lakers are coming off of an impressive outing against the Wizards last night. The win is nice, but to see the team play as a team for almost the entire game in months is even better. But, we’ll see how sincere they are in turning things around for the rest of the season by continuing to play with vigor and on the same page again tonight.

The keys for the Lakers are to defend the perimeter and to rebound on both baskets. Indiana is one of those team that lack the size inside but make up for it in their ability to shoot from outside and grab missed shots. Heach coach Jim O’Brien usually prefer using a small lineup on the floor but doing so against the Lakers will prove to be a disaster for them. So expect the Pacers to put Troy Murphy on Pau Gasol and 7′ 2″ shot-blocker Roy Hibbert on Andrew Bynum. That lineup will move Granger on the 3 spot who usually spends most of his time as a power forward.

But whatever lineup the Pacers throw at the Lakers shouldn’t be that much of a problem because the Lakers will always have the size and talent differential in the frontcourt. However, that all depends upon how often they take advantage of those mismatches in the post.

Indiana is putting up 99.2 points but allowing 104.4 points per game. They’re third-best in shot blocking averaging 6 per game and 5th in defensive rebounds at 32.4 per contest. The Lakers are 5th in the league in offense scoring 103.7 (111.7 the last 3 games) and allowing 96.9 (104.7 last 3) per game (9th). They’re also third best in rebounding (52.9 RPG), 16th in blocks (5 BPG), and 11th in steals (7.4 SPG).

The Pacers are 10-11 at home and have won 5 of their last 10 games. Meanwhile, the Lakers 11-8 on the road but have dropped 6 of their last 8 on the road. Both teams will meet again in Los Angeles March 2nd.

Tip-off is at 4:00. TV: KCAL-9  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

Preview: Lakers vs. Pacers

Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers

It’s the second game of the second of a back-to-back for the Lakers (34-11) and the fifth game overall in this two-week road swing. Tonight, they’re at the Conseco Fieldhouse to take on the Indiana Pacers (16-29) — another mediocre team but a team that has given the defending champs some fits in the past.

The Lakers have a 3-7 record playing in this arena since it opened in 1999, including dropping five of their last 6 visits. They would’ve improved that record last season if they hadn’t surrendered a 16-point fourth quarter lead which led to Troy Murphy‘s game-winning tip-in for an embarassing 118-117 loss for the purple and gold. Then, the Pacers came to Staples Center and forced the Lakers to beat them on Kobe Bryant’s 18-ft. turnaround jumper.

Franchise player Danny Granger has had his way with the Lakers averaging 30 points in their two matchups last season. So it’s needless to say Granger must be contained tonight or the Lakers could see losing to another team they should’ve beaten. Ron Artest will have the first crack at him, but their success in defending Granger will rely upon how well the Lakers will support Artest (or whoever else) as a team.

Granger returned early this month from a torn right plantar fascia suffered on Dec. 6th. He is averaging 23.6 PPG and 5.7 RPG so far this season.

But Granger isn’t the only having success in this matchup. Bryant is averaging 29.5 points against the Pacers for the past 4 seasons. Kobe has guarded Granger somewhat before, but Granger has yet to go up against Bryant and will most likely never will. Indiana signed a so-called defender for guys like Kobe over the summer.

Dahntay Jones was with Denver last year when he resorted to some cheap tricks against Kobe in that much-heated Western Conference Finals last year. Having failed guarding Bryant over and over again, Jones purposely tripped Kobe in one play that resulted in him getting a flagrant-1 foul by the league the following day. Of course, that ended his stint against Bryant and his one-year stop with the Nuggets. But like they say, you can run but you can’t hide. He’ll be facing Kobe for the first time this season tonight.

The Lakers are coming off of an impressive outing against the Wizards last night. The win is nice, but to see the team play as a team for almost the entire game in months is even better. But, we’ll see how sincere they are in turning things around for the rest of the season by continuing to play with vigor and on the same page again tonight.

The keys for the Lakers are to defend the perimeter and to rebound on both baskets. Indiana is one of those team that lack the size inside but make up for it in their ability to shoot from outside and grab missed shots. Heach coach Jim O’Brien usually prefer using a small lineup on the floor but doing so against the Lakers will prove to be a disaster for them. So expect the Pacers to put Troy Murphy on Pau Gasol and 7′ 2″ shot-blocker Roy Hibbert on Andrew Bynum. That lineup will move Granger on the 3 spot who usually spends most of his time as a power forward.

But whatever lineup the Pacers throw at the Lakers shouldn’t be that much of a problem because the Lakers will always have the size and talent differential in the frontcourt. However, that all depends upon how often they take advantage of those mismatches in the post.

Indiana is putting up 99.2 points but allowing 104.4 points per game. They’re third-best in shot blocking averaging 6 per game and 5th in defensive rebounds at 32.4 per contest. The Lakers are 5th in the league in offense scoring 103.7 (111.7 the last 3 games) and allowing 96.9 (104.7 last 3) per game (9th). They’re also third best in rebounding (52.9 RPG), 16th in blocks (5 BPG), and 11th in steals (7.4 SPG).

The Pacers are 10-11 at home and have won 5 of their last 10 games. Meanwhile, the Lakers 11-8 on the road but have dropped 6 of their last 8 on the road. Both teams will meet again in Los Angeles March 2nd.

Tip-off is at 4:00. TV: KCAL-9  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

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