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INDIANAPOLIS – As if the Pacers needed a reminder, they should be very happy that LeBron James is no longer in the Eastern Conference.
James showed Indiana first hand why he’s the best player of this era on Thursday night.
With the Lakers, James scored 38 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists on Thursday, as the Lakers held off the Pacers, 104-96, in Los Angeles.
The Lakers (12-9) jumped out to a 13-0 lead on Thursday, with Indiana having to play uphill the rest of the way.
Indiana’s woeful start led to the Pacers shooting a season-low 32.6 percent in the first half, and just 37.2 percent for the game, with Victor Oladipo (sore right knee) observing for a 6th straight game.
“I don’t have words for that start,” Nate McMillan said after his team fell to 13-9 on the season. “You just can’t dig a hole for yourself and not come in here ready to play and not come out with a sense of urgency this time in the season. I don’t care where you are, on the road or at home, I don’t have any words for that.”
Despite the poor start—the Lakers led 38-15 after one quarter—the Pacers actually quickly erased that deficit and held a second-half lead.
The bench, led by 20 points and 15 rebounds from Domantas Sabonis, got things back on track in the second quarter.
Throughout nearly all of the second half, the Pacers played from behind a couple of possessions. But they did cut the Lakers’ lead to 99-98 with 4:59 to play.
Any attempt at a third straight road win disintegrated though when the Lakers rattled off 10 straight points once their lead shrunk to one point.
James scored 12 of his game-high 38 points in the final 5 minutes, reminiscent of what the Pacers had to deal with for years in the Eastern Conference.
On the night, Pacers’ starting guards Darren Collison and Tyreke Evans were a combined 5-of-22 from the floor. Indiana was outscored by 20 points in the paint on Thursday, with no starter shooting better than 40 percent from the floor.
Former Pacers’ guard (and entertainer) Lance Stephenson played just 5 minutes on Thursday night, and didn’t score in going 0-for-2 from the floor. With the Lakers this season, Stephenson is averaging 8.0 points per game in 15.7 minutes on the floor.
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
–Tyreke Evans’ Struggles Continue: Inconsistencies were there for Tyreke Evans coming off the bench early this season and they’ve continued now in the starting lineup. In the 6 games without Oladipo, Evans is shooting just 29 percent from the floor (18-of-62), with 20 assists and 15 turnovers. It’s almost a miracle the Pacers are 3-3 without Oladipo, considering that Evans is averaging just 8.8 points per game in this stretch. Evans has admitted that things are run different with the Pacers and the adjustment for him has not been as smooth as many expected. Getting a more consistent Evans is an unquestioned goal with the month of December arriving.
–Weekly Reminder Domantas Sabonis Is Really Good: Once in a while, it’s time to have a reminder that Domantas Sabonis’ incredible production should not be taken for granted. Thursday night was a good time for that. Sabonis had 20 points and 15 rebounds on Thursday, in 29 minutes of action off the bench. For NBA players that have logged at least 15 minutes per game this season, Sabonis currently ranks 9th in the NBA in PER (player efficiency rating, which measure per-minute production). Sabonis is the only player in the NBA to average 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, and is on the floor for less than 25 minutes per contest this season.
–Surviving Life Without Victor Oladipo: The Pacers are 3-3 in this 6-game stretch without Oladipo. That’s a far cry from going 0-7 without Oladipo last season. Yes, the Pacers have taken advantage of wins over a Donovan Mitchell-less Jazz and playing the Suns (and their 4-17 record). But no apologies for wins with Oladipo in street clothes. The Pacers are withstanding things minus Oladipo, which has included a western road trip that will result in at least a 2-2 split. Oladipo could return to game action on Saturday, for the team’s final game out west, after he is expected to practice in a 5-on-5 live setting Friday.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-at Kings (Saturday, 12/1)
-Bulls (Tuesday, 12/4)
-at Magic (Friday, 12/7)
-Kings (Saturday, 12/8)
-Wizards (Monday, 12/10)