Instant Rewind: Pacers 115, Lakers 122
With the Pacers (33-38) still shorthanded and Play-In seeding on the line, the Los Angeles Lakers (41-30) came into Bankers Life Fieldhouse locked and loaded.
Despite a gritty effort from the Blue & Gold, the return of Anthony Davis and LeBron James caused a size problem that Indiana simply could not overcome. The Lakers walked away with a 122-115 victory. The loss means that Indiana cannot finished higher than ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings. They will face either the Charlotte Hornets or the Washington Wizards in the Play-In.
After staying within striking distance for the majority of the game, Indiana strung together an 11-0 run late in the fourth to trim L.A’s lead to 111-108 with 3:07 to go. But, James then proved why he’s a superstar. The veteran led a personal 7-2 run to deflate Indiana’s sails down the stretch. He finished with 24 points, seven boards,, and eight assists. Davis, who had been a problem all afternoon for Indiana, finished with a team-high 28.
Six Pacers players finished in double-figures in the effort. Caris LeVert led the way with a double-double, notching 28 points and 12 assists. JaKarr Sampson finished with 20 on 9-of-13 shooting off the bench, and Kelan Martin added 15.
Early in the first, the squads battled neck-and-neck. After falling behind 5-0, Indiana used an 8-1 run, including six straight from Doug McDermott, to take a two-point advantage at the 8:57 mark.
But, while the Pacers’ offense was clicking, the squad’s lack of size on defense appeared to be a factor. The Lakers used three alley-oop slams over Indiana’s small forwards to regain a 15-11 lead and force a timeout with 6:47 left.
Over the next few minutes, the visitors continued to hold a slim lead. LeVert’s first bucket of the game, a jumper in the paint, cut the Lakers’ lead to 19-17. However, Davis responded with six straight to stretch L.A’s lead to 25-17 with 3:34 remaining. Sampson’s powerful one-handed slam over Kyle Kuzma stopped the surge with emphasis and forced a Lakers timeout.
But, down the stretch, the Blue & Gold still had troubles stopping the former Kentucky forward. Davis rattled off nine more points for L.A. to push its lead to 31-21 at the 1:36 mark. Thankfully, a small offensive spurt from Indiana helped keep the Lakers’ lead to single digits, 36-28, as the quarter closed.
A 10-4 Indiana run, including six straight from Sampson, helped Indiana’s reserves cut the Lakers’ lead to 40-38 at the 8:35 mark in the second. Sampson and the Pacers’ bench showed increases in hustle and energy, leading to the spree.
The foes then notched nine straight to extend their lead back to double-digits, 49-38. But, LeVert then caught fire from the floor. The former Michigan star responded swiftly, knocking in a jumper and two triples for a personal 8-0 run to pull the Pacers to within three of the lead with 5:38 remaining.
Using his size discrepancy, Davis bullied his way into several trips to the charity stripe to maintain a small Laker lead. A jumper from LeVert, followed by 2-of-3 free throws from McDermott then brought the score to 56-52 with 1:50 to go.
However, L.A. began capitalizing in the paint once again. Two three-point plays from LeBron James and Drummond pushed the Lakers’ lead to 62-52. Indiana was able to trim the lead to 64-56 before the break.
After Davis started the third with another alley-oop dunk, Indiana rattled off seven straight to cut the deficit to 66-63 at the 9:51 mark. But, L.A. used the size of James and Davis to jump out to a multi-possession lead once again. James’ tough 19-foot, step-back jumper gave L.A. a 78-70 advantage with 7:10 left in the frame.
After LeVert’s layup brought Indiana back to within four, the Lakers’ responded with threes from Talen Horton-Tucker and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope’s steal-and-slam then pushed the visitors’ lead to 86-75 with 4:49 to play.
Down the stretch of the third, the story remained the same. Indiana’s offense kept pace with the top performers of the Lakers. However, they continued to struggle stopping L.A. on the defensive end. Sampson continued to have one of the most successful performances in his Pacers tenure. He finished the frame’s scoring with a driving floater – his 20th point – to keep the Pacers within reach heading into the final frame (96-88).
After sporting zero points through the first three frames, Kuzma found a spark for L.A. Five straight for the forward helped propel the Lakers to a 104-90 lead early in the fourth.
Over the next few minutes, Indiana kept up the pressure but just could not chew into the Lakers’ lead. Multiple trips to the free-throw line for L.A. helped keep a 111-97 lead with 7:19 to go. 1:04 later, Indiana cut the lead to 11 behind a wide-open three from Martin. The trey helped the forward reach double figures for the third time in his last four appearances.
From there, the squad ignited. The triple from the Butler forward initiated a run of 11 unanswered to trim the Lakers’ lead to 111-108 with 3:07 to go. The run included several gritty defensive plays, including steals from T.J. McConnell and a block by Goga Bitadze on James.
However, James got revenge on the squad. The superstar recorded a personal 7-2 run to give L.A. a 118-110 lead with 1:43 to go.
Martin’s trey at the 1:38 mark brought Indiana to within 118-113. However, they could not sink the bucket needed to cut into the lead further. Although he had been clutch all night, LeVert missed a pair of threes with less than a minute to go that would have put pressure on the visitors. With Indiana forced to foul, the Lakers sealed the deal at the free-throw line.