Monday, December 5, 2022

Preview: Los Angeles Lakers (9-10) at Indiana Pacers (8-11)

The Indiana Pacers play the first of nine home games over a 10-game stretch on Wednesday, welcoming the Los Angeles Lakers to Indianapolis.

Los Angeles comes into the fifth and final game of a road swing playing the second half of a back-to-back. The Lakers lost 106-100 to the New York Knicks on Tuesday without the suspended LeBron James, taking their fourth defeat in five games.

“Our execution on either side of the ball wasn’t good enough to start the game,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said postgame.

Los Angeles trailed 36-20 at the end of the first quarter and spent the rest of the game trying to battle back.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, the NBA’s all-time career leader in triple-doubles, recorded his 188th with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in Tuesday’s contest. Anthony Davis scored 20 points while dealing with a non-COVID-related illness, but he shot just 7 of 17 from the floor and 5 of 11 from the free-throw line.

Davis’ shooting woes were indicative of a collective issue for Los Angeles. The Lakers finished 34 of 91 from the floor in New York, an uncharacteristically woeful 37.4 percent for one of the NBA’s top 10 teams in field-goal percentage.

Talen Horton-Tucker, who made his season debut Nov. 14 after recovering from a torn ligament in his right thumb, went scoreless. After starting his 2021-22 campaign with games of 17, 28 and 25 points, Horton-Tucker scored a combined 10 over the last three.

“We used (Horton-Tucker) as a point guard instead of (Rajon) Rondo in the minutes (Westbrook) was out,” Vogel said. “I don’t know if that had anything to do with (Horton-Tucker’s scoring struggles).”

James served a one-game, league-imposed suspension on Tuesday for striking the Detroit Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart on Sunday.

James returns to the lineup on Wednesday for what will be just his ninth appearance this season. The Lakers are 5-3 with James playing, and they are 4-7 without him.

He leads Los Angeles against an Indiana team seeking its first three-game winning streak of the season.

The Pacers rebounded from a three-game skid with blowout wins over the New Orleans Pelicans (111-94 on Saturday) and the Chicago Bulls (109-77 on Monday).

Justin Holiday, who was one of five Pacers to score in double figures at Chicago, believes that the lopsided wins were reflective of Indiana’s goals for the current stretch in the season.

“Beating a team that’s high-powered and doing well in our conference is big for us,” Holiday said. “We’re trying to put a string of games together (playing well for the majority of the contest). … We’ve done that the last two games.

“Being able to do that (Monday) and win the game and win it the way we did, is good for our team to see when we do it that way, it works.”

The Pacers posted just their third road win in 12 tries this season. They are 5-2 at home, so the upcoming stretch in Indianapolis could prove vital to their standing in the Eastern Conference.

Domantas Sabonis (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Myles Turner (12, 10) both recorded double-doubles at Chicago, and Malcolm Brogdon scored exactly 16 points for a third consecutive contest.

Brogdon leads five Pacers averaging in double-figures scoring this season at 20.9 points per game. Sabonis (17.9), Caris LeVert (14.2), Chris Duarte (13.1) and Turner (12.7) are the others.

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