The Lakers would love to get back to a .500 road trip record.
The Los Angeles Lakers are facing off against the Indiana Pacers Thursday night at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Both teams enter the game at 24-28, looking for a big win to shoot up the crowded NBA standings.
The Lakers are coming off a thrilling overtime win against the New York Knicks, where Darvin Ham’s lineups finally began to take shape with the addition of Rui Hachimura. Now, the Lakers are looking for another critical win to even out their road trip ahead of their final game in New Orleans on Saturday.
As always, we’re giving you our expert predictions for tonight’s game, and everything you need to watch out for. Let’s jump in:
1. LeBron James got his first triple-double of the season on Tuesday against the Knicks, so let’s have some fun. Who will lead the Lakers in each major statistical category tonight: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks?
Noah: I’ll take Anthony Davis to lead in points and rebounds, LeBron James to lead in assists, Patrick Beverley to lead in steals and Davis to also lead in blocks. I’m sensing a big AD game in Indiana.
Alex: I’ll go with LeBron James leading the Lakers in points and assists, Davis leading in rebounds and blocks, and Russell Westbrook leading in steals. I think Davis will do a great job around the paint, but Myles Turner’s defense may limit AD’s offense.
2. The last time these two teams met, the Lakers blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead and lost on a buzzer-beater three. What does LA need to do to not that let happen again?
Alex: LA needs to clean up its fourth quarters, which have been pretty erratic of late, especially in close contests. LeBron James needs to stop pulling up for three-point attempts early in the shot clock (he’s a 31% three-point shooter this year, but takes his treys to the tune of an overly enthusiastic 7.1 attempts a night) when he gets fatigued. Russell Westbrook needs to protect the ball. Pick-and-roll actions with Anthony Davis helped the Lakers vanquish the Knicks on Tuesday in overtime. It may behoove LA to go to this again.
Noah: How about not losing a 17-point lead? But no, in all seriousness, the Lakers on paper are the better team than Indiana. The Pacers are sliding, having lost 10 of their last 11 — but they are finally welcoming back soon-to-be-All-Star Tyrese Haliburton (because, of course). But still, the Lakers have played some really good basketball as of late, and just need to learn how to continue to play hard when they have a lead. And hopefully Haliburton is on some sort of pitch-count.
3. Let’s run a hypothetical. The game’s coming down to the wire in the fourth quarter. What five guys do you want to see on the court to close it out? And why?
Noah: Dennis Schröder, Lonnie Walker IV, Rui Hachimura, LeBron James, Anthony Davis. You have your length. You have your size. You have your athleticism. And you have your scoring. If Schröder is having an off-night, I’d consider swapping him out with Troy Brown Jr. to add even more defense on the perimeter, especially if Haliburton/Hield are having good games.
Alex: I like your five here, from among LA’s healthy players. Hachimura really helps spread the floor, and boasts length and athleticism. He’s already earned a closing spot.
Alex: Buddy Hield would represent a massive upgrade beyond the arc for one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA, but offloading Lonnie Walker IV in a potential deal (which LA would probably have to do) may be too steep a price. I was open to it when the deal was shaping up to be Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn, but with Nunn in DC, that option is off the table.
Noah: While I do see the Lakers making another move before the deadline, I don’t see it being with Indiana. The long-talked about Hield to LA trade will have to wait another four-plus months until it can be brought up again in the offseason. I just don’t see the value working, as LA will not give up a first for just Hield, and Indiana won’t want Russell Westbrook/Patrick Beverley and some second-rounders. See you in July, Hield to LA trade rumors.
5. Do you think the Lakers will get the road victory in Indiana, even with the return of Tyrese Haliburton?
Noah: I see the Lakers getting the win in Indiana, behind a dominant performance by AD, and another solid one from Rui Hachimura. Lakers win by six, and head to New Orleans looking to win the road trip.
Alex: I’m going to take the under on that. The Lakers will win, but it’ll be another nail biter. Lakers by three.