The Los Angeles Lakers played three quarters without their best player, Kobe Bryant, against the second best team in the Eastern Conference and won. How did they do it?
"We played hard," coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game. "We played very well defensively. I thought Steve Blake and Metta (World Peace) on the defensive end were unbelievable."
The Lakers played defense at the rim, on the perimeter and everywhere in between. They turned the ball over 15 times, but they forced 16 turnovers. It was not a pretty game, but it was a beautiful sight.
The Lakers had nine steals, and Blake was the king in that department with four swipes. Stepping back, Blake was the player of the game in the Lakers' best road win of the season. Blake shot 5-7 from behind the arc for 18 points, passed off seven assists, and controlled six rebounds to go along with his four steals and two blocks.
Normally, when a team falls into the trap of playing the opposition's style of basketball, no good comes of it. In this case, the Lakers beat Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse playing the Pacers' brand of basketball. It was an impressive win.
The Lakers out-hustled and out-muscled the Pacers on the night. Indiana was held to only 37.4 percent shooting, and only offensive rebounding kept the Pacers in the game.
World Peace was born to play this type of game, and his 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block helped describe his all-around presence in the flow of this game. Four of his seven rebounds came on the offensive end, as World Peace was not afraid to raid the Pacers’ goal.
Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison were also major contributors but in different ways. Howard disrupted shots all night long and stayed on the floor through foul trouble. Offensively, Jamison played 33 minutes and shot 60 percent from the field for 17 points and seven rebounds.
Blake, World Peace, Howard, and Jamison may have stood out on the night, but D’Antoni summed it up pretty nicely: