The Los Angeles Lakers host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, finding themselves at a crossroads for reasons other than the upcoming, long road trip.
After already missing the previous three matchups due to lower back soreness, Carmelo Anthony is returning to the lineup against Indiana.
Meanwhile, the Pacers are without Myles Turner, T.J. McConnell, and T.J. Warren. Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb are struggling with Achilles and knee injuries, respectively, and could also miss the Wednesday clash.
Turner’s absence will certainly hurt the Pacers in the paint considering the 25-year-old center ranks second in blocks per game (2.8) this season. It could also make Indiana even more susceptible to shooting fouls, as they already give up 22.5 shots from the charity stripe per night, the sixth-most in the NBA.
Paint offense might provide L.A. with an answer to the Pacers’ mighty perimeter defense. Indiana leads the league in opponents’ three-point attempts (recording just 30.3 per game). If LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, or Malik Monk can’t find open looks along the arc, they might try looking for scoring opportunities in the protected area.
Still, head coach Frank Vogel could still deploy Dwight Howard for the tip-off — unlike in the previous games in which the Lakers’ rivals missed their big men.
L.A. has been vulnerable on the glass recently. Meanwhile, a big lineup worked in the 125-121 over the Pacers back in November, when the Purple and Gold collected 52 rebounds, the third-most number they have recorded in 2021-22 so far.
Vogel might want to stick with a winning plan, particularly after finding himself on the hot seat recently.
Yet, the key to victory for the Lakers will undeniably be maintaining the level of urgency they played with in the recent victory over the Utah Jazz. The extra effort and energy made all the difference on Monday, allowing L.A. to bounce back from the depressing 37-point loss to the Denver Nuggets.
And, it reportedly prolonged Vogel’s time in L.A. Just for that reason, the game against the Pacers carries a lot of weight: for Vogel, for the Lakers, and the fate of the front office’s 2021-22 project.
Lakers (22-22) vs. Pacers (15-29)
7:30 p.m. PT, Jan. 19, 2022
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: LeBron James
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves, Stanley Johnson, Carmelo Anthony
Projected Pacers Starting Lineup:
PG: Duane Washington Jr.
SG: Caris LeVert
SF: Justin Holiday
PF: Torrey Craig
C: Domantas Sabonis
Key Reserves: Lance Stephenson, Chris Duarte, Goga Bitadze, Oshae Brissett
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