Last Second Layup Dooms Lakers in Loss to Pacers At Staples

After the Lakers finally earned their first road victory of the season on Saturday night against the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers were back in action Tuesday night back at the Staples Center. The team was up against a struggling Indiana Pacers team who was still without their best player, Danny Granger, who has been sidelined all season with an injured left knee.

Things would be a little trickier for the Lakers that originally expected, however, when it was revealed the Kobe Bryant was battling flu-like symptoms all day on Tuesday and would be a game-time decision. While it was a surprise to nobody that Bryant took the floor Tuesday night, how much he would be able to produce would be crucial to the Lakers’ chances of victory.

Heading into Tuesday night the Lakers were 2-2 under coach Mike D’Antoni, and were looking to surpass the .500 mark under their new head coach.

First Quarter

The Lakers started the game very slow on the defensive end, and the Pacers were able to take advantage. Roy Hibbert scored six quick points to put the Pacers on top early in the game, but ultimately drew two quick fouls as well, forcing him to the bench. Even with Hibbert out for much of the first quarter, the Lakers couldn’t contain Indiana on the defensive end of the floor. The Pacers were getting open looks and knocking down their shots, while the L.A. defense seemed fairly helpless.

Offensively the Lakers did look somewhat relevant, most of which was because of Bryant. Despite battling the flu, Bryant hit his first three-point attempt as well as a floater in the lane and an assist to Dwight Howard for an easy dunk.

After falling behind the Lakers managed to put together a little momentum at the end of the first behind an impressive offensive outburst from Bryant. That coupled with some missed Indiana jumpers had a 10-point deficit back down to four at the end of the first.

After the first 12 minutes the Lakers trailed the Pacers 25-21.

Second Quarter

After struggling for most of the first before putting together a little run, the Lakers ran into an offensive lull in the second. Fortunately for L.A. so did the Pacers. In fact, for a stretch of time in the second neither team could buy a basket, which resulted in some very ugly basketball. With Kobe laying on the baseline attempting to combat the flu, nobody else on the Lakers could score the ball.

<blockquote><p>Kobe’s flu is apparently making D’Antoni’s system sick.AK</p>&mdash; Kamenetzky Brothers (@ESPNLandOLakers) <a href=”https://twitter.com/ESPNLandOLakers/status/273643876647043073″ data-datetime=”2012-11-28T04:25:58+00:00″>November 28, 2012</a></blockquote>

Kobe finally came back into the game and got the Lakers going a little more, and was clearly the only offensive force the team had to offer. In fact, the only reason the Lakers were able to keep the game close was because the Pacers were having as much trouble scoring the ball as the Lakers. It didn’t help when Dwight Howard was forced to play with three fouls, limiting his offensive capabilities.

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At halftime the Lakers were trailing the Pacers 40-33 behind 16 points from Kobe and not much else from the rest of the team.

Third Quarter

After a lethargic first half the Lakers didn’t look much better to start the third. The team couldn’t get anything going offensively, and they continued to shoot a terrible percentage from beyond the 3-point line. L.A. was getting some decent looks from the field but the shots simply weren’t falling, which allowed the Pacers to maintain their lead and keep the Lakers at bay. After starting the game 5-6, Bryant began to struggle with his shot as the game progressed.

In fact, things were so bad that we began to see tweets like this as the third quarter dragged on.

A big story in this game was the lack of production, once again, from Pau Gasol. The 7-foot Spaniard had more than 60 percent of his shot attempts blocked through three quarters. He also lost the ball on multiple possessions, and couldn’t get any sort of rhythm going. It was not a strong performance from a player who is once again the centerpiece of trade talks.

At the end of three ugly, ugly quarters at the Staples Center, the Lakers were trailing the Pacers by just four points, 61-57.

Fourth Quarter

Despite a wretched shooting percentage the Lakers managed to keep the game close due to an equally horrid shooting night from the Pacers. Indiana couldn’t make anything work offensively, and seemed to be gift-wrapping the game for the Lakers. Unfortunately L.A. couldn’t take advantage for the beginning of the fourth quarter. Missed jumper after missed jumper rained down on the poor, battered rims, who took quite the beating on Tuesday night.

The Lakers’ ability to keep it close was purely because of the still-sick Bryant, who was the only offensive weapon the team seemed to possess.

Another big problem for the Lakers was their turnovers, which continues to plague them this season. There was no bigger culprit here than Bryant, who turned it over 10 times by himself.

Finally the Lakers saw a little bit of aggression from Gasol late in the game. He earned a couple trips to the line and managed to keep the Lakers close. Credit also had to be given to Metta World Peace, who played a strong game despite a poor shooting night. He was hustling and working hard on the boards, keeping several possessions alive for Los Angeles. For Laker fans, it was encouraging to see him stay engaged in the game despite struggling shooting the ball.

After the Lakers trailed the entire game (after a 3-2 lead early in the first) the team finally went on an 8-0 to tie the game with 1:56 left in the 4th. A big blocking call went against Chris Duhon which allowed Indiana to take a one point lead at the line. The Lakers came back down and responded with four missed free throws of their own, which looked like it would cost them the game. Well, until Kobe came down and hit a three to tie the game.

With one last possession the Pacers got an easy layup from George Hill, finishing off the Lakers, 79-77.

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