The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off 127-121 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. The Lakers were outplayed and were down double digit points most of the night, but they regrouped and started to play efficiently and eventually cut the lead to one point in the fourth quarter. As has been the case for the season, they were unable to get a stop when they needed it.
Lou Williams led the team with 24 points and Nick Young chipped in with 22. Once again three starters for the Lakers scored in single digits, which placed much of the offensive burden on the bench. Tonight the Lakers welcome the Indiana Pacers to town and are hoping to end a five-game losing streak.
The Pacers are coming off a 106-100 road win against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. Paul George led the way with 24 points and four rebounds. The Pacers are a young team that feature a couple of really good players, one of those being George and the other, Myles Turner. The Lakers definitely have their work cut out for them tonight and hopefully they are up to the challenge.
The backcourt of the Pacers is headlined by Jeff Teague and as of late, Glenn Robinson III. Teague, who was acquired over the summer in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, has been solid for the Pacers. He currently averages 15.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and eight assists per game. He is most effective from inside the three-point line so D’Angelo Russell and whoever else is guarding him must try and make him work for his shots and not let him get an easy path to the basket.
Robinson III has currently taken over the shooting guard position from Monta Ellis. Robinson III does not bring the same offensive prowess Ellis does, but he is still productive and is a much better defender. He is averaging 6.2 points per game uses his size (6’6”, 222lbs) to his advantage. He might give some of the Lakers guards trouble because of his length.
Ellis, who started most of the season, and Aaron Brooks give the Pacers good depth off the bench. Ellis can light up the scoreboard on any given night, so it is important for the Lakers to play sound defense and be aware of where he is at on the court. Brooks is a spark plug because he provides quick energy and hustle.
The backcourt for the Lakers has been up-and-down as of late. It seems like when either Russell or Nick Young plays well, the other has an off game. Young has seemingly found his shooting touch again after struggling the past few games. Against the Nuggets he finished with 22 points on 50 percent shooting. He will need to score tonight for the Lakers to come out with a victory.
Russell has been in a slump shooting from behind the arc lately. In the last five games he has shot 2-for-17 from that distance. He needs to play better for the Lakers to have a chance to win on a nightly basis.
Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson have arguably been the most consistent players for the Lakers this season. When they step onto the court, you know what they are going to bring; scoring, scoring, and scoring. Williams is currently the team’s leading scorer at 17.8 points per game and Clarkson is right behind him at 14 points per game. They will be counted on tonight to do the same and hopefully they can deliver.
Paul George, Myles Turner, and Thaddeus Young hold down the frontcourt for Indiana. George has progressed his way to superstar status in recent years. He can score from all over the court (as the Lakers found out in the first meeting between these teams) and play lock down defense on most players.
It will very difficult for the Lakers to stop George so they must try and make things tough on him offensively. Whoever is guarding him, either Luol Deng (questionable) or Brandon Ingram, will need some help if George is able to work his way in the post and get high percentage shot attempts.
Young and Turner are good players who provide sufficient offense. Turner averages 15.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, but that does not justify how good he is fundamentally. He has great footwork for a player his size and can also play solid defense. Timofey Mozgov can minimize Turner’s impact by using his size against him. Young does a little bit of everything for the Pacers; he can score, rebound, and play defense. Assuming George, Turner, and Teague can play up to their stats tonight, Young becomes the x-factor. If he plays well the Lakers will have an even more difficult time securing a win.
Al Jefferson and C.J. Miles come off the bench for the Indiana. Miles can shoot the ball really well and has had good games against the Lakers during his career, which is why the Lakers must not let him find his rhythm early. Jefferson uses his body to work his way toward the paint for easy shot attempts. The Lakers will have their hands full tonight trying to stop Jefferson and the rest of the Pacers’ bigs.
Assuming Deng can’t play tonight because of a sprained wrist, Ingram will most likely get the starting nod, joining Mozgov and Julius Randle. Randle has been struggling as of late offensively. In his last three games he scored only 13 points combined. That simply is not going to get it done if the Lakers want to be competitive. Hopefully Randle can turn it around tonight and start playing like he did to begin the season.
Mozgov’s production has also decreased as of late, and as a result so has his playing time. At times he looks out of place on the offensive end, which has limited his impact on the floor. Tonight he will be needed to provide some offensive scoring to combat the frontcourt of the Pacers.
Ingram has seen his level of play increase as of late. In his last 10 games he has averaged 11.1 points per game, which has boosted his confidence. He finally seems to be playing the way Lakers fans had hoped when he was drafted last summer. Hopefully he can continue his play tonight.
Tarik Black, Thomas Robinson, and Ivaca Zubac are the Lakers big men off the bench. Black and Zubac had good games against the Nuggets as both finished in double figures. All three will probably be needed to night if both Randle and Mozgov continue to struggle.
3 Keys To Victory:
Play With Pride
If the Lakers want to end their five-game losing streak then they need to play with some pride and urgency. The Lakers are playing opposite from the beginning of the season, when they were playing with confidence and grit. The lack of fight has translated into losses, but they can change that tonight if they buckle down and fight.
Starters Need To Produce
The Lakers starters need to play better than they have been to be competitive for an entire game. When the starters are not playing well, it places a heavy burden on the bench to pick up the slack offensively. Sometimes that is too much to overcome for a young team. If the starters play well the Lakers are a better team and capable of beating any opponent.
Make Someone Other Than Paul George Beat You
George is one of the best players in the game and he is getting better with each passing season. He is able to score anywhere on the court, which makes defending him difficult. He is going to get his points, but by making sure no one else explodes offensively the Lakers have a good shot of winning this game.
Los Angeles Lakers (15-31) vs Indiana Pacers (22-19)
7:30 P.M. PST, January 20th, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Pacers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Glenn Robinson III
SF: Paul George
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Myles Turner
Key Reserves: C.J. Miles, Al Jefferson, Monta Ellis, Aaron Brooks
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Ivica Zubac, Tarik Black