Three Things to Know: Lakers vs Pacers - 1/19/22
Coming off one of their biggest wins this season over the Utah Jazz, the Lakers (22-22) will look to get back over .500 when they welcome the Indiana Pacers (15-29) to Crypto.com Arena. Opening tip is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Pacific on Spectrum SportsNet.
Here are three things to know before tonight’s matchup:
STAN THE MAN
Stanley Johnson is currently on his third 10-day contract with the Lake Show and is showing why he can be kept on the roster moving forward. The eighth overall pick from the 2015 NBA draft had his best outing in a Lakers uniform Monday night when he finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 from the field, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.
“People forget that [Johnson] was a top 10 pick in our league,” LeBron James said on Johnson’s performance. “He’s a guy who’s hungry.”
The “Stanimal” was all over the court in his 25 minutes. Whether he was driving to the hoop on a contested layup or outhustling the Jazz defense to grab an offensive rebound, Johnson was just part of the spark that allowed the Lakers to beat one of the top ranked teams in the NBA.
He played especially fearless against one of the league’s top big men in Rudy Gobert. On three separate plays in the final frame, Johnson was able to get around Gobert for two impressive layups and snatch an offensive rebound away from the Frenchman and subsequently found Avery Bradley in the right corner for a dagger three.
Stanley Johnson stepped up to the moment with 10 points in the fourth quarter pic.twitter.com/KSH6Zv8SJc— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 18, 2022
In his postgame interview with Mike Trudell, Johnson reiterated (about 10 times) how much energy he wanted to bring into the contest and noted the blessed feeling he carries being on a third 10-day contract.
“I was cut by the Chicago Bulls earlier in the year,” Johnson said. “You get cut by a team, you don’t know how long you have left to play in the NBA. Not only am I playing in the NBA, but I’m playing for the hometown team. I’m happy I’m here and happy we’re winning, again.”
The Lakers second unit of Johnson, Talen Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk, and Austin Reaves played tremendously on both ends of the court in the win over Utah. Combined, the quartet outscored the Jazz bench 44-25 and all finished as a +13 or better.
The Pacers will be without their big man Myles Turner, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Against Utah, the Lakers made almost half of their FGs in the paint even against Gobert's large frame. That is something that can be done again tonight with the lack of Turner patrolling the key, who leads the league in blocks (118) and blocks per game (2.8).
Defensively, the Purple and Gold held the best offensive team in basketball to below 100 points, something that has happened to Utah just four times this season. On top of that, Donovan Mitchell was held to just 13 points and went 0-for-8 from three-point range (first time this season Mitchell has not made at least one three-pointer).
For the Lakers to find continued success, the defensive effort they put in against Utah must carry over, as Frank Vogel emphasized in Monday’s postgame.
“I think there’s a huge lesson to be learned with this group that we’re going nowhere without being a great defensive team,” Vogel explained after the Lakers held the Jazz to 36.9 percent shooting. “Our guys finally locked in, and this is the No. 1 offense in the league by a mile, and we did a great job in all phases. When we play like this, we know we can beat anybody.”
Great Day in LA pic.twitter.com/GVfYAQxMfg— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 18, 2022
FREE THROW CONUNDRUM
Over the last four games, L.A. has gone 59-of-85 from the line (just below 70.0 percent) while their opponents have shot a combined 75-of-92 (good for 81.5 percent).
It hasn’t been just the recent struggles but a season-long dilemma. The Lakers currently have the second-worst free throw percentage in the league (73.2) and are not far off from bottom of the NBA, currently held by the Houston Rockets (71.5).
Individually, the Lakers “Big 360” average above 5.3 free throw attempts per game while the rest of the team averages below three attempts. Despite getting to the line more, Bron, AD, and Russ are only shooting between 66.0 to 76.0 percent from the line and only five Lakers are shooting above 80.0 percent.
Avery Bradley is the only player with a perfect shooting percentage but has only been to the line 10 times this season.
Missed free points can be a factor for any team but for the Lakers it has been the difference in why a single-digit win wasn’t a double-digit victory and vice versa when it comes to some of their losses.
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