Lakers: Defense, Free Throw Edge In Fourth Quarter Help LA Down Feisty Pacers

LA wins a 112-111 nail biter.

Tonight, your Los Angeles Lakers fought back against a double-digit halftime deficit with some tough late-game defense courtesy of Anthony Davis and a huge advantage in free throws to beat back a spry young Indiana Pacers club, 112-111, on the road.

After a back-and-forth first quarter-and-a-half, the Pacers had built up a slim lead, up by just six, 44-38, with 8:50 left in the second quarter. Unfortunately, that’s when things starting getting out-of-hand for LA. Indiana went on a 23-16 run to end the frame and build up a double digit halftime edge, thanks mostly to gangbusters three-point shooting. LA shot a paltry 2-of-8 (25%) from long range, while Indiana went 12-of-22 (54.5%). The Pacers’ last triple of the half was this four-point play from rookie shooting guard guard Aaron Nesmith, as he put the finishing touches on a 13-6 Indy run to close out the half strong.

The Lakers trailed by 13, 67-54, at the break. Anthony Davis (ahem) paced LA with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting, plus six rebounds and a steal. LeBron James was the only other Lakers player in double digits after two quarters, with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. Meanwhile for the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton had already scored 16 points, Nesmith notched 15, and oft-discussed Los Angeles trade target Myles Turner had 14.

The two teams traded buckets for much of the third quarter. Both shot an identical 12-of-25 (48%) from the floor, though LA made one more triple (2-of-8) than Indiana did (1-of-8) in the frame, outscoring the Pacers 30-29. Indiana, of course, still had a 12-point advantage over the Lake Show heading into the fourth, thanks to the home town’s big first-half lead. LA trailed 96-84 at the end of the third.

LeBron James continued to look insanely youthful in the period, but he used his crafty veteran savvy to create space with this slick turnaround move along the baseline:

Los Angeles finally took its first lead of the game in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter thanks to a surprisingly effective early-shot clock  LeBron James triple:

With the Pacers leading 111-110 thanks to an Andrew Nembhard step back jumper, Russell Westbrook initiated a fastbreak offense to help LA get some quick points. He threaded the needle to Anthony Davis, who worked his magic inside, scoring what turned out to be the winning two points on an 11-foot turnaround fadeaway.

LA led 112-111 with 35.3 seconds remaining. Davis proved his two-way mettle on the very next play, when he rejected a Tyrese Haliburton point blank reverse layup try.

Lakers fans the world over started sweating mightily when recently-extended Pacers center Myles Turner fouled starting “shooting” guard Patrick Beverley with 10.6 seconds left to stop the clock, and he invariably missed them both because he’s bad now and should be traded. LA forced sharpshooting swingman Buddy Hield into a tough 16-foot heave with 1.9 seconds remaining, Anthony Davis secured the board, and that was all she wrote.

Davis led all Lakers scorers with 31 points on 13-of-27 shooting from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the charity stripe, 14 rebounds, two dimes, two blocks and a steal.

James finished with 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the floor (2-of-5 from deep) and 2-of-2 shooting from the charity stripe, seven assists and seven rebounds. That makes his magic number to surpass former Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time regular season scoring record of 38,387 points just 63 more points.

That sum suggests James will probably become the league’s all-time leading regular season scorer at home next — either on Tuesday, February 7th, against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder, or Thursday, February 9th, against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Three other Lakers — guards Dennis Schröder (12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the floor, six rebounds, five assists and a steal) and Russell Westbrook (a 10-point, 10-assists double-double) and reserve center Thomas Bryant (11 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the floor, six rebounds)

Were the Lakers abetted by attendant game officials in the fourth quarter? Well, they did get 16 free throw attempts against… zero for the Pacers in the frame, and only won by a single point. So, you know, yeah.

For the game, the Pacers led the Lakers in three-point shooting by a big margin (16-of-41 vs. 6-of-22), but LA held a massive edge in free throws (22-of-31 vs. 5-of-6). LA slightly out-rebounded Indiana, 51-46, , and owned the Pacers when it came to points in the paint, 60-48.

With the win, LA has now matched its total road wins tally from last season, an encouraging sign that this year’s team is, indeed, much better than the dinosaurs surrounding Anthony Davis and LeBron James on last year’s model. LA is now 25-28 on the year, and 2-2 on its current road trip with one game left, Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

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