LOS ANGELES, CA -- The Indiana Pacers start their west coast road trip tonight as they face the Lakers. The Pacers will be wearing their Hickory alternative uniforms for the second time this season. Indiana will wear those uniforms for a total of ten times overall and four times on the road. This will be the first time that they have worn these uniforms on the road in history.
Indiana will be facing the Lakers for the first time this season. Last time these two teams faced was way back on January 4, 2015. Indiana lost that game 87-88 thanks to Kobe Bryant hitting a game winning hook shot.
There are a few interesting storylines for tonight's game between the Lakers and Pacers; Roy Hibbert will be facing his former team (Pacers) for the first time since being traded, Jordan Hill will potentially be facing his former team for the first time since leaving in free agency, and Paul George will be playing his childhood idol (Kobe Bryant) for the possibly the final time ever.
Many said that the Pacers would suffer on defense without Roy Hibbert protecting the rim, well that hasn't been the case. Hibbert is terrible at defending in space and against the pick-and-roll, so the Pacers defense has actually seen improvement with his departure. So this could be a game where the Pacers exploit his weaknesses and prove to the NBA world that they made the correct decision.
Both teams have been on opposite trends lately. The Pacers are coming off a 104-92 home win over the Chicago Bulls, meanwhile, the Lakers last game was a 108-96 road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Indiana has won four consecutive games and Los Angeles has lost five straight games, so this has legitimately been opposite trends for both teams lately. Los Angeles appears to be in contention for the worst record in the NBA. The Lakers have a 2-13 record on the season. The Lakers have looked horrific this season and there are a ton of holes in their roster. It can be said that this team is currently in a rebuilding mode that is being held hostage by Kobe Bryant.
Indiana has been one of the elite teams in the NBA since their 0-3 start. In fact, the Pacers currently sit at the second spot in the Eastern Conference standings. The Pacers have won ten of their last twelve games and are currently on a four game winning streak. This hot start has been a major surprise for many, because the popular opinion was that the Pacers were going to struggle early in the season as they got acclimated to their new system and their new players. Indiana currently has a 9-5 record on the season and has been the hottest team in the NBA not named the Golden State Warriors during the month of November.
The Pacers are currently dealing with a few injuries. Jordan Hill is questionable for tonight's game with a sore lower back. Myles Turner will remain out as he continues to recover from the surgery that he had to repair the chip fracture in his left thumb. Los Angeles doesn't have any reported injuries, however, there is the chance that Kobe Bryant could be rested tonight since this is the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers played the Trail Blazers on the road last night and Bryant played 34 minutes. Los Angeles is expected to use a starting lineup of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, and Roy Hibbert. Their bench unit is expected to be Nick Young, Metta World Peace, Brandon Bass, and Larry Nance Jr.
Indiana is projected to use their small ball lineup of George Hill, Monta Ellis, C.J. Miles, Paul George, and Ian Mahinmi. Their second unit is projected to be Rodney Stuckey, Chase Budinger, Solomon Hill, and Lavoy Allen. It is unknown if Jordan Hill will play tonight, but he will remain at the backup center position if he plays. Ian Mahinmi is expected to see a lot of minutes since there isn't expected to be a backup center tonight. However, Lavoy Allen could get some minutes at center if Jordan Hill doesn't play. Solomon Hill could see some small ball power forward minutes tonight. Glenn Robinson could see minutes, but he didn't play last game so minutes are not expected for him.
Los Angeles has no defensive threats to the Pacers on their roster. It all starts with Paul George on both ends of the floor and nobody on the Lakers roster can handle him. George Hill, Paul George, C.J. Miles, and Monta Ellis should be able to get past their man at will, which should result in individual offense and open looks for their teammates. The Pacers should have no problems using off-ball movement and off-ball screens to get easy shot attempts. That is because of the fact that the Lakers are a horrible weak side defensive team and they are also a horrible off-ball defensive team as well. This Lakers team is legitimately an ideal matchup for both the Pacers starters and bench. Indiana's play-makers and role players should all feast on a terrible Lakers defense.
From a defensive stand-point, this is also an ideal match-up for the Pacers. The Lakers have no miss matches or threats that should be moderately difficult for the Pacers to contain. Indiana does a great job of executing team defensive rotations, defending off/on-ball screens, individual defense, and off-ball movement, so the Pacers should have no problems stopping this horrible Lakers offense. Los Angeles has no miss-matches in their starting lineup or on their bench, so if Indiana's execution goes as it appears it will on-paper, then this should be a blow-out victory for Indiana. But then again, you never know what will happen on any given day, but it appears very favorable on-paper for the Pacers.