At first glance the Lakers vs. the Pacers would seem like a mismatch. But last season they played two unbelievably close games. In Indiana, Troy Murphy had a buzzer-beater tip-in and then in LA, Bryant hit a three-pointer with three seconds left. In the early going it looked like this could be headed to a similarly close finish, but the Lakers turned it on in the second half and handled the Pacers, 118-96.
The Lakers pounded the ball inside all game long against the smaller Pacers. Their first 12 points were from getting the ball in the paint (the last two of those being free throws). But the Pacers stayed in the game because they were beating the Lakers down the floor and scoring in transition. With Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the game, the Lakers were able to have numbers if they hustled and it resulted in open shots.
But Bynum was playing too well on offense to take out for very long. At halftime he had 22 points on 10 of 12 shooting and finished the game hitting 12 of 14 for a season-high 27 points and also added 10 boards. Gasol produced as usual, scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Despite the size advantage though, a three-pointer at the buzzer by Lamar Odom was the only difference in the first half as it gave the Lakers a 59-56 lead. But the Lakers and specifically Kobe Bryant took over in the second half. They outscored the Pacers 59-40 after intermission.
In the third quarter, Bryant had 13 points on just six shots. He got five of those points at the free throw line as he attacked the rim and also had three assists in the quarter. He finished with a very efficient 29 points on 10 of 15 shooting and also had nine rebounds and seven assists. I hate to sound like a broken record but - it looks like that back isn't hurting anymore.
Offensively the Lakers looked a little better in the second half, but the biggest difference was just the Pacers missing shots. The Pacers started off hitting four of nine three-pointers and held a 44-40 lead. After that point they hit just three of their last 19. It's not like the Lakers were closing out on the shots better - the Pacers were just missing on some really good looks. If the Pacers knock down a few more of those this is a much closer game. It still wouldn't have negated the size advantage the Lakers had but it would have prevented this from becoming a blowout.
The Lakers improve to 3-2 on the road with three more to play. They'll play the 76ers in Philly on Friday.