The Lakers look to avenge one of their early season losses against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at Staples Center. With high expectations coming into the season, the Pacers find themselves sixth in the Eastern conference standings and they will be looking to improve that with a victory over the Lakers.
These two teams had utterly contrasting hopes heading into the season, but they both have had roller coaster seasons thus far. Indiana was supposed to be a team that had potential to make a deep playoff run, and while that might still happen, it is far less likely at this point.
On the flip side, the Lakers had one real goal heading into the season, and that was to develop the young guys. Luke Walton and his staff have done a sound job of this, but as with most young teams, the consistency isn’t there yet.
The Pacers are led by California native, Paul George, someone who has a few question marks surrounding his future with the team due to him being a free agent in 2018. George is a superstar in the league, something the Lakers saw first hand during their November meeting as he had 30 points, seven rebounds, and four steals. So the purple and gold will have to try to do a better job of affecting his play this time around if they want to pull out a victory.
PG13 has some help in Jeff Teague and second-year big man Myles Turner. In his first year with Indiana, Teague is averaging a career high in assists with eight per game, while pouring in 15.8 points to go along with it. Turner in his first year as a full-time starter is filling in quite nicely; his ability to stretch the floor at 6’11” makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the court. He’s currently averaging 15.7 points per game on 52.8% from the field and 42.2% from deep.
The Lakers will have to be without Larry Nance, Jr. for another game but it looks like he’ll be returning any time now as he practiced in full on Thursday.
Luol Deng is listed as doubtful tonight which could mean another start for Brandon Ingram who has been playing exponentially better in January. In 10 games this month, Ingram is averaging 11.1 points per game while shooting 46.8% from the field and his three point percentage has risen to 42.3% on the month. At this point, the game seems to be slowing down for Ingram, he’s been more decisive and more aggressive with the ball than earlier this season and has scored 11+ points in six of his last eight games.
As for other pieces of the Lakers young core, D’Angelo Russell played a total of 17 minutes in their recent loss to the Nuggets seemingly due to a lack of effort. Look for Russell to come out energetic and try to change his effort level on Friday night. While the loss to Denver was ugly for a majority of the game, Los Angeles was able to find some playing time for rookie center, Ivica Zubac (Kareem Abdul-Zabbar according to Larry Nance, Jr) and he was vastly impressive. The Croatian was able to show off his touch around the rim, scoring 11 points. He was also able to protect the paint and had three blocks and a number of disrupted shots to prove it. If he’s able to see extended minutes, hopefully Zubac can provide another strong game.
Friday’s game tips off at 7:30 PST on Spectrum SportsNet.