by Jim Johnson
It was almost unbelievable to think that the Indiana Pacers game against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers was actually in Indianapolis. In fact, when the starting line-ups were announced, there were loud cheers for Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and, obviously, Kobe Bryant. And there were the expected jeers for Ron Artest – the former Pacer blamed for destroying the Pacers franchise.
There were very minimal cheers for Pacers coach Jim O’Brien.
Not only were there more cheers, but there were more Lakers shirts and jerseys.
“It just means the home team is struggling and there’s a lot of Lakers fans in the building,” Bryant said. “It feels good to hear a response like that, and you definitely appreciate it.”
The Indiana Pacers obviously aren’t a very good basketball team right now and they have a lot of work to do before they can complete for a title. A little defense would go a long way for the Pacers. Kobe came out hot going 5-5 with 10 points. Andrew Bynum made his presence known as well going 5-5, knocking down two free throws and scoring 12 points in the quarter.
Artest scored the first point on a lay-up and then picked up his first foul of the game, sending Danny Granger to the line who tied the game with two free throws.
The Lakers started to build their lead when Bynum scored on a lay-up and on the next trip down the floor Bryant drove to the basket to score. The Lakers jumped to an 18-8 lead in the first quarter at one point with 14 of the 18 points scored in the paint – proving Indiana’s lack of defense. Los Angeles ended up scoring 54 of their total 118 points in the pain.
Indiana not only doesn’t play defense, they don’t rebound either. Four offensive rebounds in the first quarter isn’t terrible, but they also missed 12 of their 23 attempted shots in the first.
After Kobe hit a jumper to put the Lakers up 18-8, Indiana called a timeout and then Troy Murphy came out on fire to cut down the deficit. Granger first drove to the basket to cut the score to 18-10. Derek Fisher missed a three-point attempt and Troy Murphy hit on an 18-foot jumper.
Murphy scored 7 points, and Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush each scored 4 points in a drive that put Indiana within a point, 26-25 all while forcing a four Laker missed shots and a turnover.
Things looked up for Indiana after one quarter as they trailed by only 2 points, 31-29.
Indiana kept plugging along and stayed with the Lakers for the entire quarter. Bynum put up another 10 points in the second and Hibbert was on a roll for Indiana with 7 points in the second quarter.
Rebounding was still the issue for Indiana. Just 4 offensive rebounds again in the second. The Lakers grabbed 12 boards on the defensive end. After many shots –specifically perimeter shots – nobody from Indiana is crashing the boards and not one person is under the basket ready to grab a rebounds. Although the Lakers normally had two or three guys ready to pull down a missed shot from Indiana.
And Indiana allowed Los Angeles to score half of their second quarter 28 points in the paint.
Somehow, Indiana only trailed by three at halftime, 59-56. It was a score that could have easily been tie at 56-56, but Lamar Odom hit a trey at the buzzer to put the Lakers up three points heading into the break.
It was downhill for the Pacers the entire second half. The Lakers put up 11 more points than the Pacers in the third quarter with a 56 percent shooting performance. Indiana had only seven total rebounds in the third quarter – six boards on the defensive end.
The third quarter was when Kobe started to come out of his shell. He scored 13 points in the third with two treys and five free throws. By the start of the fourth, Kobe had 23 total points, but Bynum lead with 25 points. For Indiana, it was Murphy with 18 points.
Los Angeles hammered the Pacers again. The Pacers never took a lead the entire second half. It’s unbelievable that after four quarters, Indiana still didn’t learn how to grab offensive boards. They only had two offensive rebounds in the fourth and 11 for the entire game. Los Angles grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the fourth and 20 total.
The stat the really stuck out was the Lakers outrebounding Indiana 62-42 on the night.
“We played them pretty well in the first half, but we couldn’t get it going and let them beat us up on the boards in the second half,” Murphy said.
Kobe ended the game with 29 points and Bynum dropped 27 while Hibbert lead the Pacers with 21 points.