“He’ll play … he’ll play hard … he’ll be good.”
These words were from coach Mike D’Antoni on Kobe Bryant, who had “flu-like symptoms” before Tuesday night’s game. Once spoken, you could hear the collective sigh of relief from Lakers Nation. Mix that with being back home after going 1-2 on their first road series, and the Lakers were ready to take on the Indiana Pacers.
Before the game, D’Antoni spoke about how the Pacers’ game-plan would not affect how they played the game.
“Once we get the ball we’ll do what we [want to] do,” he said. “They may control the pace of the game, but not our pace. Our pace is going to be up-tempo hopefully and spread the floor and get better at what we’re doing.”
Fortunes turn quickly
It seemed like it was going to be a good night with Kobe Bryant’s first shot from behind the 3-point line dropping. Not long after, however, the Lakers found themselves down 12-5. By the 5-minute mark D’Antoni was calling his first timeout as the team was down by nine. Through sheer will Kobe managed to put up 13 points in the first quarter to put the Lakers within four going into the second quarter.
The second quarter looked like something out of the D-League. The Pacers went 1-for-22 and the Lakers had no answer as they continued to trail by at least two points throughout. David West finally cut the brick streak when his jumper made it 29-25.
Bryant gave it all to keep his team in the game, stepping in front of a George Hill pass and going coast-to-coast to slams it in to bring the Lakers within one.
But as it has been all season long, turnovers allowed the Pacers to go into the half leading by a score of 40-33.
Just like the start of the game, the start of the second half had promise. Metta World Peace drained a 3-point shot. However, just as things seemed to be going the Lakers’ way, Gasol botched a 4-on-1 break and the momentum was gone.
Bright spots to be found
One of the brightest spots of the game came in the third, when World Peace made a diving save to keep the ball inbounds. The ball was slapped to Kobe, who found a wide open Gasol who finished this time with authority.
A 13-2 Lakers run pulled the team within two (57-55), but turnovers and an overall lack of focus put them down 61-57 going into the fourth.
It’s never a good thing when one player has as much as the rest of his team, but that happened when Kobe hit three free throws to give him 30 points. The good news is that it put the Lakers in striking range, down by three.
A flurry of 3’s by Bryant made the score 67-66.
Now stop me if you’ve heard this one.
Lakers turnovers and a lack of ... oh ok ... so you know where I’m going. At any rate, a George Hill fast break and a David West jumper, and a couple more buckets later, the Lakers found themselves looking at an 8-point deficit.
Somehow, the Purple and Gold put together an 8-0 run of their own to tie the game.
But five missed free throws later and virtually no defense on George Hill as he drove the lane was what it took to give the Pacers the W.
After the tough loss, D’Antoni still found a bright spot: “A little bit is I’m proud of the guys the way they fought and had a chance to win, which defies statistical logic. “
Let’s run a couple of numbers.
- 23-for-43 from the line
- 24-for-76 from the field
- 6-for-28 from 3
- The bench only scored 5.
Indeed, it was a statistical nightmare. But like D’Antoni said, to be that close playing that bad is that moral victory you’re looking for.
Hard to rationalize this loss
Now at 7-8, even Mr.-Look-On-the-Bright-Side couldn’t rationalize this one: “Have to really take some responsibility,” World Peace said. “No excuses at this point.”
When film study happens it will be seen that it was he that allowed the Pacers’ George hill to fly by him for the winning bucket.
Bryant, who posted a triple-double of the bad sort (40 points, 10 rebounds, 10 turnovers), put it on himself. “I have to minimize my mistakes. Having 10 turnovers is too many for me so I have to work on perfecting that and bring that down.” He went on to say how it’s his “responsibility to pick everybody up.”
Dwight Howard, who posted 17 points of his own, said he wished he could have that last play back. “I should have just went a little bit earlier,” he said. “I tried to time it, but he didn’t shoot one of those normal lay-ups. It shouldn’t have come to that point but we’ll learn from it.”
Howard was a part of that late missed-free-throw streak at the end of the game along with Metta and Kobe.
The Lakers will glady put this game behind them as they now set their sights on their next opponent.
UP NEXT: Denver Nuggets (8-7) on Friday at Staples Center
EFT (Energy Focus Toughness measured by Coach Dave Miller) Level: 3
“Big Game Award Winner” (given by James Worthy): George Hill \
You can follow JD Carrere on Twitter at @SportsNetJunkie.