Entering Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers had lost all eight games where Lonzo Ball had been unavailable to play, and the average margin of defeat was 17 points.
With starters Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope joining Ball on the sidelines for Friday's game against the Indiana Pacers, the Lakers looked like long shots to break that trend, especially considering Indiana entered the night as a playoff team with a winning record.
Not only did the Lakers beat the Pacers, they did so by double digits, 99-86, and claimed free tacos for the 18,997 fans in attendance.
Off the Lakers' bench, Jordan Clarkson proved to be the hero of the night with 33 points on 14-19 shooting to go along with seven assists and seven rebounds. As the assists suggested, the San Antonio native did more than simply score the basketball.
"The rim liked me," Clarkson summarized the night in his playful style.
The Lakers' sixth man explained his focus: "Just knowing that everybody was banged up. We have all of our main guys [out]. I had to step up and I know what I had to do tonight."
Less likely than the Lakers winning was the fact that Clarkson accounted for all of the Lakers' makes from the foul line, as the shooting guard hit two of his three free throws on the night. The remainder of the team combined to miss all 11 of its attempts from the charity stripe, as the Lakers continue to sit at the bottom of the NBA when it comes to free throw percentage.
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"It was our defense," Lakers coach Luke Walton explained how the team managed to win despite the historically poor foul shooting night. "Our defense was awesome tonight, and that was the challenge all day long to the guys. It doesn't matter who's out, how many guys are out."
While the Lakers played improved defense, the Pacers also missed shots in extraordinary fashion. Indiana finished the night missing 23 of 25 three-point attempts, a lowly eight percent from long distance. Incredibly, that proved to be a lower percentage than the Lakers' foul shooting.
"It's just one of those funks, that's all," Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, who led the team with 25 points, said after the game. "We just haven't been hitting shots. We are doing a pretty solid job defensively. We just can't hit the shots. It happens sometimes."
With the victory, the Lakers improved to 16-29 on the season. Next, the New York Knicks come to town for a Sunday matinee.
Notes: Larry Nance Jr. finished the night with a double-double: 10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. Nance also made all five of his field goal attempts on the night.