Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Pacers: G. Hill, L. Stephenson, P. George, D. West, R. Hibbert
1:30 L.A. was really, really struggling on offense, making only 3 of its first 18 field goals, before back-to-back triples from Metta World Peace cut what had grown to an 11-point Indy lead to five at 19-14. The big story of the day was, of course, the fact that Kobe Bryant was playing through a severely sprained ankle.
0:00 The run concluded at 8-0 as Steve Blake drew a three-point shooting foul on D.J. Augustin with under a second left on the game clock, hitting 2 of the 3 foul shots to cut Indy's lead to 19-16 after one.
0:00 A bizarre end of the half featured two errors by the Indiana shot clock operator, who started the clock too early and thus negated a buzzer-beating jumper from Nash at the free throw line. The refs decided to put 1.5 seconds back on the clock, calling the Pacers back out from the locker room, but the Lakers missed two shots, and thus took a 46-41 - not 48-41 - lead in to the second half. It had been 46-36 with 49.3 seconds left when Robert Sacre - in for Howard, who picked up his third foul halfway through the third and had to sit after dominating the first six minutes - hit a baseline jumper. Indy responded with a George Hill three and two Paul George free throws, cutting the margin in half. More news:
- Kobe Bryant did not play in the second, the ankle simply not allowing him to move well enough to play, and was out for the game.
- Antawn Jamison went off in the second, hitting three triples towards 11 points with five rebounds.
- Steve Blake was there with him, hitting two triples himself and throwing four assists.
8:04 After consecutive buckets from Howard and Nash, L.A.'s Kobe-less offense fell apart, a mix of turnovers and missed open shots allowing Indy to take a 56-50 lead, up 15-4 in the quarter, keyed by a quick 13-0 burst that had Mike D'Antoni call time out. This, by the way, is the Pacers line up that has been an NBA-best +263 on the season when playing together, a fantastic mark, better than Miami, OKC and San Antonio's best units.
4:23 Coming right back for the Lakers, thanks to World Peace - seven straight points - and a freshly-returned Blake, who fed MWP for the last bucket, cutting Indy's lead back to one. Howard was outplaying Hibbert, but Indy's center drained an unexpected corner 3 to beat the shot clock on a busted play, just his second make in eight attempts. The Lakers continued to play well to close the quarter down just a point.
7:00 Immediately after returning from his regular rest, Nash pulled up for a jumper, and MWP followed with a put-back of Blake's rare miss to make it a 79-76 Lakers lead, behind an 11-7 start to the final period. Blake had a season-high 14 points to go with his seven dimes and three steals, while MWP was up to 19 points to lead all scorers. Howard had also been strong, with 15 points, 12 boards, four assists and four blocks to that point despite early foul trouble.
1:30 Have we mentioned Blake enough? He continued to make huge plays, nailing his 5th triple and then collecting his fourth steal, the latter leading to an and-1 from Howard that put the Lakers up 90-87 with a minute and a half to play. Blake's fourth triple had come moments earlier, putting L.A. up two with 2:55 left, before Hill answered with a jumper. An even bigger triple came from Jamison, his fourth, which gave him 17 points (Blake had 18) and put the Lakers up 93-87 in the final minute, the dagger triple the 13th in 26 attempts for the visitors. Hill answered with a big three, but L.A. executed a perfect fastbreak to get Howard a dunk with 30 seconds left, the final nail in the proverbial coffin.
0:00 The final, after free throws, was 99-93, easily the best Lakers win of the season. They played without Kobe for three quarters, Pau Gasol remained in street clothes - but is expected back next week - and got a bit of something from everybody. World Peace added great defense on West (4 of 13 shooting) to his 19 points, Howard totaled 20 points, 12 boards, four dimes and four blocks, Blake totaled 18 points, seven dimes, six boards and five steals, and Nash 15 points with nine assits. L.A. makes up for a blown game in Atlanta to improve to 2-1 on the trip and 35-32 overall, a game up on Utah for the 8th spot out West. Up next is Sacramento on Sunday; we'll see you there.