Lakers-Pacers: Two Keys to the Game

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Just two games following a 150-145 shootout victory against the Pacers, the (41-32) Los Angeles Lakers travel to Indiana tonight to rematch the (40-31) Pacers. 

The Lakers are on a five-game winning streak after defeating the Bucks and Grizzlies on the road. Despite this, they are still in just ninth place in a stacked Western Conference. 

However, they are only one game behind the Kings for the eighth seed and two games behind the Mavericks and Suns for the sixth seed. If the Lakers can keep stacking victories, there is a path for them to finish with their highest playoff seeding since 2020. 

Here are two keys for them to continue their winning streak. 

Limit the Pacers’ three-point shooting

In their last matchup against Indiana, the Lakers struggled to guard the perimeter, as the Pacers went 18-36 from downtown. This included a defensive breakdown in the fourth quarter, resulting in eight three-pointers for the Pacers. 

A big reason for this was the game’s flow, as it was a back-and-forth shootout in which neither team was missing. Injuries have also affected the Lakers’ defense. 

The team undoubtedly misses forward Jarred Vanderbilt, one of the best defenders on the team and capable of guarding the perimeter. Vanderbilt would have helped guard forwards Aaron Nesmith, Obi Toppin, and Doug McDermott, who scored the majority of the Pacers’ three-pointers. 

The Lakers also did not have starting point guard D’Angelo Russell, meaning there was one less dependable body in the guard rotation. 

However, the Lakers were able to hold both the Bucks and Grizzlies to under 40% from three as a team, which is a sign that they have since adjusted to their perimeter struggles. If they continue to make that a priority in this game, they should undoubtedly slow the Pacers down. 

Feed Anthony Davis

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Anthony Davis has played exceptionally as of late and should continue to be the focal point of the offense. 

This includes his performance against the Pacers on Sunday, where he exploded for 36 points off 71% shooting and 16 rebounds. 

This should come as no surprise, as AD historically does really well against Myles Turner, having averaged 24/10/3 against him in his career. 

In addition to Turner, the Pacers have generally struggled with guarding the paint, as NBA.com credits them with allowing the second most points per game in the interior (58.7 ppg). 

The matchup is there for the Lakers and Anthony Davis, and feeding him the ball should also lead to more open looks on the perimeter. 

Having said that, both AD and LeBron are listed as game-time decisions for tonight's game. Should neither of them play, this would be a much tougher matchup for the Lakers. 

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