The Los Angeles Lakers had a five-point lead at halftime over the Indiana Pacers, ultimately losing control of the game in the final two minutes to fall to 2-4 in the bubble so far. The Pacers were bolstered by two huge threes late from T.J. Warren, who continues to be the star of the NBA bubble so far. He ended as a game-high +22 on 39 points.
Although the Lakers fell in the end, it was easily the best game the Lakers have had since their win against the Jazz (and this performance may be better than that one). Even though it ended with an “L”, there were some positives to take from this one.
LeBron James has an impressive return
Although LeBron James had a great defensive performance in the Lakers’ first seeding game against the Los Angeles Clippers, fans have been patiently waiting for one of LeBron’s games where he effortlessly scores against the opposing defense. He had one of those games today, scoring 31 points (13-for-24 FGs) with seven assists, and eight rebounds.
You could tell early on that LeBron was going to force the issue on the Pacers’ defense. He started to drive forcefully into defenders’ chests on pick-and-rolls in the first half, heading to the second half with 15 points early on. He played well down the stretch, setting up Quinn Cook and Anthony Davis for wide-open threes in the final two minutes. The two players just couldn’t knock them down, resulting in the loss after Warren continued to be unconscious.
Lakers bench shines, led by Quinn Cook
The Lakers only had a chance in this one because of their bench who outplayed the Pacers’ bench all game (noted here by Dave McMenamin of ESPN). The main driver behind the Lakers bench was Quinn Cook, who poured in 21 points (5-for-9 three-point FGs).
We’ve already discussed how Quinn Cook could re-gain some playing time in the bubble, with him putting the ball in Frank Vogel’s court moving forward with this performance. The Lakers weren’t really experimenting with lineups as much as they were against the Rockets or Thunder, so this may be a sign of things moving forward for more playing time for Cook. Still, Cook can only stay on the court if he’s white-hot, as he is arguably the worst defender on the Lakers.
Anthony Davis struggles
This was easily Anthony Davis’ worst game of the bubble, only scoring eight points while only getting two free-throw attempts. Although Davis’ shot has come-and-go in the bubble, he has shown consistency in getting to the free-throw line. He shot 3-for-14 from the field in this one, with the Lakers probably being able to get a win if he even had an average shooting game. He did still have stellar defense, contributing two steals and two blocks. Still, the Lakers haven’t had a game yet in the bubble where LeBron and AD both dominated at the same time. They’re going to need plenty of those games in the playoffs.
The Lakers will be back on the court Monday against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets will be coming off a thrilling and long win against the Utah Jazz before this game, as Jamal Murray helped win it after two overtimes.