Pre-Game Report: Lakers Look to Bounce Back Against Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers (10-4) at Los Angeles Lakers (10-7)
6:30 PM PST, January 22, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Fox Sports West, NBALP
Radio: 710 ESPN (English)/ 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Pacers Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Paul George
SF: Danny Granger
PF: David West
C: Roy Hibbert

Key Reserves: F Tyler Hansbrough, G George Hill

Pacers Injury Report: C Jeff Foster will not play (back), F Jeff Pendergraph questionable (concussion)

Lakers Injury Report: G Steve Blake will not play(sternum)

The Lakers look to bounce back from back-to-back road loses against the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic as they face the surprising Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are coming off a thrilling and controversial win against the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers need to bring some energy to Staples Center tonight to boost their offense to return to the path of victory against the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers. The Lakers are 55-20 all-time against the Pacers and 33-5 at home.

Frontcourt: The frontcourt for Indiana is well-balanced. Center Roy Hibbert is having his best year yet statistically, averaging 13.6 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game on 53 percent shooting from the field. This should be an interesting matchup for Bynum as he and Hibbert are built alike, but Bynum wins out on skill level, which he needs to display tonight. David West’s stats have decreased this season compared to his time in New Orleans. He is averaging 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. However, Gasol needs to be aggressive in this matchup to limit West’s game and beat him on the boards. Reserve forward Tyler Hansbrough is finding his groove coming off the bench, averaging nearly 11 points per game and 6 boards per game. At the three, Danny Granger is considered to be the face of the Pacers. However, his field goal percentage (36) has dropped under 40 percent for the first time in his seven-year career. Granger is putting up 16.2 points per game, yet it important for Barnes to use his defense to limit Granger’s offense.

Backcourt: UCLA alum, Darren Collison is a big threat at the three-point line, where he is shooting 48 percent. Overall, he is putting up an average of 11.1 points per game and 5.4 assists per game. To round out the starting backcourt for Indiana, NBA sophomore Paul George is contributing 11 points and 5 rebounds per game, shooting 49 percent from the three-point line. Just like Indiana’s starting frontcourt, their backcourt is well-balanced. Their backcourt is also young, athletic and fast, which can be a real obstacle for the Lakers backcourt, especially Fisher. In fact, Collison and George have the sixth and seven best three-point percentages in the NBA. Reserve guard George Hill is continuing his impact that he had when he played for San Antonio. Hill is coming off a big game against Golden State on Friday, where he made the game winning steal and layup. Hill is averaging 10.5 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the field.

Keys to Lakers’ Victory:

Control the Paint, Limit Long Jumpers: The Lakers remain last in the NBA in three-point percentage, with 26 percent. So far thus season, they seem to shoot way to much from the outside perimeter despite having one of the strongest frontcourts, if not the strongest in the NBA, with the Bynum-Gasol duo. The Lakers need to take advantage of the Pacers’ weakness for giving up second opportunity shots, as they are giving up an average of 13 offensive boards per game. The Pacers’ defense is allowing an opponent percentage of 40.9, which is the best in the league. To counter this, the Lakers need to win the points in the paint battle with big performances by Gasol and Bynum.

Help Kobe: To get things back on track for the Lakers, the bench and the other starters not named Kobe Bryant needs to improve their contribution to the game. The Lakers bench is producing an NBA worst 19.5 points per game on 39 percent shooting from the field and 27 percent from the three-point line. In their last three games, the bench has averaged just under 14 points per game. With the absence of Steve Blake, guards Derek Fisher and Jason Kapono need to pick up some of the slack by improving on their averages of 5 and 3 points per game respectively. When Matt Barnes has 10 or more points, the Lakers are 4-0, meaning Barnes needs to improve his offensive contribution. Even though Kobe is having a great year so far, averaging 30 points per game, he cannot do it alone.

Have Strong First Half: The Lakers had tremendously slow starts in each of their loses to Miami and Orlando. They had 37 points going into the half against the Heat and 31 points at the end of the second quarter against the Magic. The Lakers’ starting five lacked energy and effort, especially in the first halves of these two games. The bench which is supposed to provide a spark on the court has been disappointing, to say the least. While the Lakers, spurred by the best closer of the game in Kobe Bryant, have finished the second half stronger, they get themselves in too big of a hole with the lackluster performance in the first half. The Lakers need consistency throughout the game in order to come away with a win.

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