Game #15 Preview: Pacers @ Lakers

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Indiana Pacers @ Los Angeles Lakers
Sunday, November 28, 2010
9:30 pm EST
Staples Center
Los Angeles, California

shaq kareem mikan

At least these guys aren’t playing tonight.

You probably know who the Los Angeles Lakers are. They have won the past two NBA titles. And they might be even better this year.

That’s the bad news about the squad that the Pacers will try to beat tonight in Los Angeles (with a 9:30 EST start, FYI). The good news is that the Lakers are on a for-them-huge losing streak right now of one game. The comeback kids from Utah did some more comebacking to edge the Lakers on Friday. That shouldn’t get Hoosiers too excited though — Utah does that to everyone. The Lakers remain very, very good.

A quick glance at the number chart below shows you just that. You’ll notice several “1st”s and “4th”s in looking at where they rank against the rest of the league. Their offense is particularly unstoppable, which should be really scaring the bejeezus out of every other NBA franchise since it was their defense more so than their offense that made them so great last year — and you have to assume the D will come back to form, especially when (OK … I guess we have to say “if” with him these days) Andrew Bynum gets back from his knee injury.

Lamar Odom has been a force. I know it’s not even December yet, but with 15.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.8 apg and an insane 57.7%, Lamar might be working on the beginnings of a career season — in his 12th year in the league. Pau Gasol has been similarly brilliant with 22.0 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.9 bpg and 55.8% shooting. Kobe is Kobe naturally and both Chris Paul and Deron Williams are balling out of their minds right now, but it would be hard to put up much of a fight with anyone claiming that the big Spaniard is the NBA’s MVP right now.

That said, Indiana can beat the Lakers.

This isn’t last year where a ragtag crew is headed West to LA only to figuratively die of dysentery Oregon Trail-style. No, no. This team is getting pretty good. Sure, they have to face the Lakers, Suns and Jazz (in addition to the lowly Kings) on this trip and very well might go 1-3. But there is not a “lambs to the slaughter” feel for anyone this time around. Not the players. Not the coach. And, not (or shouldn’t be) the fans.

Again, look at the numbers below.

A lot of people a lot smarter than me will tell you that if you want to try to find one golden number to predict how well a team will play going forward, look at its average scoring margin. Teams that have won previous games by a lot of points tend to win games in the future. Makes sense, eh?

Well, the Pacers currently have the 8th best average scoring margin in the NBA at +3.64. And over their past 10 games, they have an average margin of +7.4 — a total better than every team aside from San Antonio (+10.1), this Los Angeles (+8.9) and Boston (+8.1).

If that doesn’t get you excited, I have more.

The Pacers, long overstated as being a run-and-gun squad of chuckers who are soft as Charmin on the other end, are playing damn fine defense. So far they have been the 5th best defensive team in the league, allowing a stingy 101.9 points per 100 possessions and an opponents’ eFG% of 46.6%, which is good for 2nd best in the NBA. (eFG% is basically FG% adjusted to note that three-pointers are worth three points. Indy is also 2nd best when it comes to the ol’ skool concept of FG%, surrendering only 43.1% to the opponent. That’s very, very good.)

What all this really means is that teams, collectively, have not shot well or scored effectively against Indiana so far this year. I know it doesn’t always look that way, but the numbers are what the numbers are. They don’t lie.

The rough part is, again, the Lakers offense. It’s just dominating. With an average of 116.4 points per 100 possessions, LA has so far been better this year than even the uber-potent Phoenix Suns attack was last year. Yikes.

Ultimately, however, the most uplifting thing of all for Pacers fans should be one simple fact: Indiana can beat the Lakers tonight. They have shown that they can win against anyone this year if they play their best.

And that’s a far cry from where they were 12 months ago.

Pacers vs. Lakers By the Numbers

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