Game Rewind: Pacers 107, Lakers 103
The headlines belonged to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Sunday night, but the scoreboard belonged to Paul George and the Pacers. Indiana (11-5) built a big lead early and withstood a late rally to win in Los Angeles, 107-103.
George scored 39 points, including the Pacers’ final 12 points over the last 1:57, to help the Blue & Gold seal their fifth straight victory and 11th win in their last 13 contests. It was a fitting performance for George, a Southern California native, in his last game at the Staples Center against his boyhood idol.
Bryant, the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer, announced hours before Sunday’s contest that he was going to retire at the end of the season.
“I was going to cherish this moment,” George said. “What a feeling, to play against your idol back home.”
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said pregame he thought that Bryant’s announcement might give the Lakers an emotional lift early in Sunday’s game, but in fact the opposite occurred.
The Lakers had an abysmal first quarter shooting the ball, connecting on just 2-of-20 shots. The Pacers had no such struggle, going 12-for-24 from the field in the first period to build a 28-12 lead.
Indiana led by double digits for most of the night and had an 84-69 lead with 9:45 to play before the Lakers threw together a 16-5 run to make it a four-point game with 4:01 remaining.
The Pacers seemingly responded, with center Ian Mahinmi foiling Los Angeles’ intentional foul strategy by knocking down four straight free throws, and George buried a step-back jumper to give Indiana a 98-89 lead with 1:27 left.
But Kobe and the Lakers put together a memorable rally down the stretch. First, Bryant hit a 3-pointer with 1:19 to play. After two free throws by George, Nick Young hit a three of his own. After George lost the ball out of bounds, Bryant passed out of a double-team to Julius Randle, who subsequently found Metta World Peace open on the right wing for yet another triple, making it a two-point game.
George continued to knock down free throws down the stretch to keep the Lakers at bay, but Bryant buried a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key with 12.1 seconds left to cut the deficit to just one.
Despite the suddenly thunderous roar from the Lakers faithful, George calmly knocked down two free throws once again to ensure that Los Angeles could only attempt to tie the game.
There would be no more heroics from Bryant, whose subsequent 3-point attempt missed well right, allowing the Pacers to escape with the victory.
All told, George hit 9-of-10 free throws over the final 1:07 to seal the win.
“I had the utmost confidence to put this game in my hands,” George said after the victory.
Still, it was a closer outcome than he and his teammates expected against the team with the worst record in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got to learn from this,” George said. “Being up big and letting this team come back, they made some tough shots, but it was against us not playing great defense.”
But given the unexpected national spotlight on Sunday’s game due to Bryant’s announcement, Vogel thought his team handled themselves well.
“I thought we came in with the right mindset and the right focus, got a big lead, and overcame a lot of circumstances to get a tough win,” Vogel said. “The environment that we played in tonight was atypical to what the Lakers have been this year.”
Monta Ellis added 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and dished out six assists in the victory. George Hill and Rodney Stuckey were the only other Pacers players to score in double figures, each finishing with 11 points.
Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers’ offensive attack, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Young added 22 points off the bench.
Bryant struggled mightily from the field despite a couple late 3-pointers. The former MVP had 13 points, four rebounds, and three assists while going just 4-for-20 from the field.
The Pacers now will stay in Los Angeles and enjoy a couple days off before returning to Staples Center on Wednesday evening to take on the Los Angeles Clippers.
Inside the Numbers
Thanks in large part to George’s heroics down the stretch, the Pacers dominated the Lakers from the free throw line. Indiana went 30-for-37 from the charity stripe, while Los Angeles was just 16-for-22 from the foul line.
George set a new career high with 17 free throw attempts, one more than his previous best, set on March 17, 2014 against Philadelphia.
Indiana had 16 turnovers on the night to the Lakers’ 12, just the fifth time this season that the Pacers committed more turnovers than they created.
Former Pacers center Roy Hibbert played for the first time against the team that drafted him on Sunday night. The two-time All-Star finished with eight points, nine rebounds, and two blocks in 26:40.
Both starting center Ian Mahinmi and backup Jordan Hill collected 10 rebounds for the Pacers.
You Can Quote Me On That
“They played the foul game and marched us to the line and they’d shoot three and we got two free throws. That’s what happens in the NBA, but our guys held on and it was a heck of a win.” – Pacers head coach Frank Vogel
“A decision like this, you can’t allow—you can’t make that decision based on outside circumstances. It has to be an internal decision, and finally I just had to just accept the fact that I don’t want to do this anymore, and I’m okay with it, and once I accepted that then it became time to just let everybody know. Why not? It takes a load off my shoulders and everybody else’s, and I think it’s just the right thing to do.” -Bryant on his decision to announce his retirement
“Kobe was my [Michael] Jordan, I didn’t really have any moments of watching Jordan, but Kobe was my Jordan; watching him win championships. I remember just being at home watching the games with my mom, my grandma, my dad, [and] just idolizing him. After the game was over, I’d go in the front yard and try to imitate everything that I just saw.” -George
“He’s the greatest. He’s one of the greatest. He did more than enough for the NBA, for this league, and I guess he feels it’s time to hang it up, so I mean, I congratulate him. Wonderful career, wonderful guy, best of luck.” -Jordan Hill on Bryant, his teammate for three-plus seasons with the Lakers
Stat of the Night
Including Sunday’s game, George averaged 29.5 points over 13 contests in the month of November. He topped 20 points in the final 12 games and scored 30 or more on six occasions, including four of his last five games.
- With Sunday’s win, Indiana has now won four of its last five games against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
- Jordan Hill returned to the Pacers lineup after missing Friday’s win over Chicago with a sore lower back.
- Indiana is now 8-1 on the season when scoring 100 or more points.
by Wheat Hotchkiss