After a dangerously long stretch on the road, the Los Angeles Lakers are finally back home at Staples Center on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, their visitors are not cupcakes opponents. At 34-9, the Indiana Pacers have the best record in the NBA, and they win with defense.
Whereas the Lakers enter Tuesday’s game allowing the second-most points in the league (106.1), the Pacers allow the fewest points per game this season (90.2). On average, the Pacers allow nearly 16 fewer points than the Lakers per game, and defense is one glaring difference between a team that tops the NBA and a team that is flirting with last place in the Western Conference.
Tuesday’s game, however, is not a formality. The Pacers come into Los Angeles struggling on the tail-end of a five-game road trip. After a blowout 24-point loss in Phoenix, the Pacers required overtime to take care of the Sacramento Kings. In their last outing, the Pacers were again blown out by the Denver Nuggets.
So, the Lakers get a shot at the best team in the NBA after it has dropped two of its last three games and is on the last game of an elongated road trip. Considering the Lakers are on a four-game losing streak, they are still not favorites on Tuesday night, but the odds are not entirely stacked against them.
Also, the Lakers do have some positives to latch onto entering Tuesday night.
First of all, the Lakers are not turning the ball over nearly as much as they did for the bulk of the season. In their last three outings, the Lakers are averaging 11.3 turnovers per game, which is about four turnovers less than their season average.
Although the team has been failing to collect wins, a handful of players have been stepping up to make this team competitive. Jodie Meeks is one of those guys. Meeks is averaging 18.8 points per game and shooting an impressive 47.5 percent from the field in January. The shooting guard has scored in double figures in each of his last 13 games, and the three-point specialist is coming off a 24-point performance where he made six 3-pointers in eight attempts.
For the Lakers to collect a win on Tuesday, LA will need some outside shots to drop, and Meeks is the best candidate for the job. Defense would be nice too.
The Lakers and Pacers get underway at 7:30 pm PST.