The Los Angeles Lakers often face teams just as they get healthy, and this midwest bout is no different. The Indiana Pacers figure to get cornerstone point guard Tyrese Haliburton back in the lineup when the Lakers roll into town on Thursday evening.
The Pacers have effectively fallen apart in Haliburton’s absence. When the young guard suffered subsequent elbow and knee injuries, the Pacers were 23-19. Since then, they’ve gone just 1-9, dropping all the way to 10th in the Eastern Conference postseason picture.
Haliburton returning should bring a huge boost to a Pacers lineup that includes two top trade targets for the Lakers in Myles Turner and Buddy Hield. Both have been the subject of vigorous trade rumors throughout the course of the season, especially with regard to the Lakers.
Luckily, the Lakers have a chance to see Hield and Turner at near full strength. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both figure to be in the lineup, with Austin Reaves being the only missing link. Reaves is still recovering from a hamstring strain.
The Lakers are also quickly becoming desperate to put together wins, as they sit at 13th place in the Western Conference with only 30 games left in the regular season. Despite being two games away from the Play-In Tournament and three game out of the playoffs, there are a number of teams jockeying for positioning.
Ten teams are separated by just four games between fourth and 13th. Only three in that group can make the playoffs and avoid the Play-In altogether, four will face off at the 7-10 spots, and three will miss out entirely. If the Lakers don’t start winning with more consistency now, they could find themselves on the wrong end of that group when it’s all said and done.
Although Haliburton brings a different fire to the Pacers, the Lakers must view this as a winnable — and therefore must-win — game. With teams like the New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies making up eight of their next 10 games, every beatable opponent matters.
The backcourt tandem of Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin — mixed with the recently red-hot Hield — may give the Lakers some trouble. L.A. has struggled to contain opposing guards regardless of Davis’ presence in the lineup. But their matchup with Turner does become an advantage with a healthy Davis.
The Lakers size advantage on the wings and in the paint should allow them to control the physicality of the game, so long as the Pacers’ guards don’t completely overwhelm that of the Lakers.
Considering the Lakers lost to the Pacers earlier this season on an Andrew Nembhard buzzer-beater after blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead, there’s no doubt L.A. is looking for some revenge in this one.
Los Angeles Lakers (24-28) vs. Indiana Pacers (24-28)
4:00 p.m. PT, Feb. 2, 2023
Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: LeBron James
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Troy Brown Jr., Lonnie Walker IV, Thomas Bryant, Wenyen Gabriel, Max Christie
Projected Pacers Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyrese Haliburton
SG: Buddy Hield
SF: Chris Duarte
PF: Aaron Nesmith
C: Myles Turner
Key Reserves: Bennedict Mathurin, T.J. McConnell, Andrew Nembhard, Isaiah Jackson, Oshae Brissett
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