Colts fans were crushed Sunday night as they were leaving Lucas Oil Stadium. The news wasn’t all bad though, as many fans tuned in to see the Indiana Pacers defeat the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant got his on Sunday night, as he poured in 41 points, but the Pacers were able to outlast the Lakers 95-92. Roy Hibbert led the Pacers with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Danny Granger added 18 for Indiana.
In less than a week, the Pacers have beaten the Heat in Miami, and the Lakers in L.A.
The Pacers shot just 17 percent (four-of-23) from behind the three-point line, but held Pau Gasol in check for the most part. He finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Lamar Odom was the only other Laker to score in double figures.
Gasol had his hands full most of the night with Hibbert, who outplayed him throughout the entire game. Indiana out-rebounded and out-hustled the Lakers on Sunday night. Most of the other stats were about even, which made this the difference in the game.
The Pacers who led by 15 points at one point, had their lead shrink to just one point in the final seconds, before Roy Hibbert put in a dunk with 16 seconds left. Kobe had two tries at a game-tying three pointer, but missed them both.
Danny Granger knows how big this win was for the franchise. “To come into L.A. and beat the world champions on their home court is a huge win for us,” Granger said. “It gives us a lot of motivation and confidence on this West Coast road trip.”
While Hibbert agreed that the win was a big one for Indiana, he doesn’t want the wins to feel like such an amazing accomplishment. Hibbert after the game said, “We know this is a big win for us, but we can play with anybody. We don’t want to get too high off this moment. In the future, we don’t want this to be a surprise.”
Darren Collison scored 14 points for the Pacers, who have stayed competitive despite a lack of offensive firepower this season by playing stellar defense. Only the Utah Jazz have held opponents to a lower field-goal percentage this season than Indiana, the Pacers were allowing just 43.1 percent shooting entering the game against the Lakers.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson knew that they were getting out-hustled, and that it was going to be a problem.
“We played a lethargic game,” Jackson said. “I was encouraging them from the first timeout … to play harder. I thought they out hustled us, and obviously it paid off for them.”
Kobe scored 15 consecutive points for the Lakers to close the third quarter, and the Lakers cut the lead to five points with a 13-3 run into the fourth. Indiana held the Lakers to one basket in the next five-plus minutes, but Artest hit a 3-pointer with 2:43 left to trim the Pacers’ lead to 89-86.
Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said after the game, “The main thing I thought we did an exceptional job of, is we kept running it back at them. We’re one of the top defensive teams in the league right now. If we defend, then we can win.”
Although I like the enthusiasm and confidence O’Brien has in the team’s defense, I am not sure if they are one of the top defensive teams in the league, after being one of the worst for the past several years. They have definitely improved, but it’s too early to lay claim as one of the top defensive teams in the league.
Looking at the last six games for the Pacers, they are 4-2 over that span with road wins over the Heat and Lakers. The only two losses were close games that came down to the wire. One loss was in overtime against the Thunder, and the other was a very close game against the Magic. Those are two of the best teams in the league, no doubt. With a bounce or two their way, they could easily be on an impressive six-game winning streak.
The next game will be in Sacramento on Tuesday night against the Kings, which they should have a decent shot to win.
This was the perfect way to start off the tough West coast trip for Indiana. This will build their confidence and keep the morale high while they are away from home. They know they can compete with any team in the league, but they have to remain focused.
We have seen too many times, wins against the best teams in the league, only to fall to the likes of teams like Toronto, Philadelphia and Minnesota. They have to bring the same intensity every night, or else they will suffer the same consequences as the Lakers did on Sunday.