On a night where Kobe Bryant officially announced that he would retire after the season, the Los Angeles Lakers still had a tough task ahead of them in the Indiana Pacers.
Kobe made the announcement through a poem he posted on the Players Tribune called “Dear Basketball”. Despite the huge blow, Lakers faithful can find peace in knowing the Black Mamba has made peace with himself and will go out on his own terms.
With that in mind, Kobe would go head-to-head with one of the league’s best players, and someone who has always said Kobe is his idol, Paul George. This also marks Roy Hibbert’s first game against his former team.
Both teams got off to a slow start as Indiana went 1-6 from the field, while the Lakers started 0-7. A Paul George three put the Pacers up 5-2 following a pair of free throws from Julius Randle to get Los Angeles on the scoreboard. Indiana began to heat up, hitting four of their next seven shots to go up 13-6 midway through the first quarter. Hibbert made his presence felt on defense with a monstrous block on his former teammate Paul George. After going 0-10 to begin the game, the Lakers finally got their first field-goal on a three from Jordan Clarkson to cut the lead to six. With three minutes left in the quarter, Kobe recorded his first bucket on a pump-fake and finish over the double team with the score now 17-12 in favor of the Pacers. Monta Ellis continued his stellar start to the game answering back with a jumper for his seventh point. The Pacers got really hot to end the quarter, going on an 11-0 run to put them ahead by 16. Meanwhile, the Lakers continued to struggle on offense as they failed to convert a field goal for the remaining three minutes and ended the first quarter trailing the Pacers 28-12.
The Laker started the second quarter much the same as they couldn’t buy a bucket before Larry Nance Jr. finally got on the stat-sheet with a soaring finish at the rim. Former Laker Jordan Hill got active on offense with a layup inside off the pass from Rodney Stuckey. Suddenly the Laker bench really got things going with an emphatic putback dunk from Brandon Bass to bring the score to 34-18. Los Angeles then started to pick up the tempo with a soft jumper from D’Angelo Russell in transition coming off the missed shot from Stuckey to cut the Pacer lead to 14. However, the Lakers failed to maintain any rhythm on offense as they shot only 17% on 6-36 shooting with five minutes left to go in the half. Clarkson ended yet another two-minute field goal drought with a turnaround fadeaway for his ninth points, as they Pacers remained in the lead 38-26. Clarkson kept it going with a corner three that hit nothing but net on the dish from Russell to spark a 9-2 run for the Lakers. Russell then found Kobe for the easy jumper to cut the lead to seven with a little under two minutes left in the half. Indiana finally answered back with a jumper from Monta Ellis to add to their 42-33 lead. Hibbert again made Indiana pay for going small with an follow dunk off the missed Kobe jumper to cut the lead to nine. It would be the Pacers who ended on a high-note with a layup finish from George to go up 48-35 at halftime.
The Pacers picked up here they left off with an easy set play leading to a wide open dunk for Ian Mahinmi to open the half. The Lakers replied with back-to-back buckets from Julius Randle to give him six points and bring the score to 52-39. Indiana started to get it going with an alley-oop followed by a three-pointer from CJ Miles to put themselves ahead by 14. After a jumper from Russell, the Pacers countered with another three from George with the score now 62-45. George would not let up, as he knocked down another three to give him 22 points midway through the third quarter. Nick Young finally scratched with his first bucket of the game with a corner three on the assist from Clarkson. Young came back with two more threes; one from the opposite corner coming off a steal from Metta World Peace, the other off a screen to give him a quick nine points. George, not to be outdone, cooled Young off with a fadeaway jumper. Only Young answered George with his fourth three-pointer in the quarter to cut the Pacer lead, 75-61. Larry Nance Jr. got the defense going with yet another emphatic block, pinning the shot of Lavoy Allen on the backboard. The Lakers bench provided a spark, and ended the third quarter well, but the Lakers still trailed 80-65.
The Lakers started off well with baskets from Young and Russell. Kobe tried to get going, but missed a couple of jumpers as the Lakers deficit remained 15 after a putback dunk from Jordan Hill. The Lakers had a chance to cut the lead to single digits, but missed free throws from Kobe and Young kept them behind by 12. Young would atone for his missed free throws with his fifth three-pointer of the night to bring the Lakers within 84-75 with seven minutes remaining. The Lakers momentum continued as a massive coast-to-coast dunk from Randle brought the Lakers within six, 87-81, midway through the quarter. Free throws from Ellis put Indiana back ahead by eight, but a dunk from Bass kept the Lakers within six. The Lakers intentionally fouled Mahinmi who missed both free throws and Clarkson followed with a jumper to make it 89-85 with four minutes left. The Lakers tried the ‘Hack-a-Ian’ again, but this time Mahinmi hit both. A big rebound and putback from Randle brought the Lakers back within four, but Mahinmi was hacked and again made both to put Indiana ahead 93-87. Ellis drove straight down the lane for a floater as Indiana went ahead eight, giving themselves a slight cushion. The Lakers had a chance to cut into the lead, but a Kobe turnover and missed corner three from Young hurt their chances. World Peace hit a nice layup and Kobe hit a deep three, but the Lakers couldn’t stop Paul George down the stretch. Another Young three-pointer cut the lead to five with just under a minute remaining. A turnover gave the Lakers the ball back with the chance to make it a one possession game. World Peace hit a three, but the Lakers took so much time that they had to foul. George hit both free throws to make it a four-point game with 22 seconds left. Clarkson hit a floater to cut the lead to two again, but George would hit both free throws to keep it a four-point game. Kobe hit a ridiculous fadeaway three to make it a one-point game and George would hit more free throws to make it a three-point game with 11 seconds left. Kobe would airball the attempt, however and the Lakers would come up just short, 107-103.