The Lakers are entering that dangerous territory of thinking they can turn it on whenever they want. They did it again last night against the Pacers. The Pacers are one of the worst teams in the league, yet a few minutes into the third quarter they were just one point behind the defending champions. The Lakers pulled away in the third and won 122-99 but they're playing a dangerous game not showing up early in games.
In the first half the Lakers looked slow and out of sync. They didn't hit their first field goal until midway through the first quarter but it gave them a 10-8 lead (remember - they're playing the Pacers). Bryant hit just 2 of 7 shots in the half but he hit a buzzer beater with Dahntay Jones all over him to give the Lakers a 60-54 lead.
The Lakers used their obvious size advantage to outscore the Pacers in the paint 34-18 in the first half. Pau Gasol had 12 points and 8 rebounds and Andrew Bynum added 11 points. Offense wasn't the problem. On defense they were giving up layups to the likes of Josh McRoberts. McRoberts averages 3 points per game but had 15 last night.
The third quarter started much the same way as the Pacers actually gained ground at the beginning. But then the Lakers turned it on and dominated. In the final nine minutes of the third, the Lakers outscored the Pacers 26-10. The main reason was because they stepped it up on defense. Ron Artest spearheaded the defensive effort with five steals in the third. He absolutely shut down Danny Granger. Granger averages 23 points per game but was held to 2 of 9 from the field for 9 points.
The other major factor was the bench play. Jordan Farmar finished with 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting and Shannon Brown contributed with 12 points. With just over a minute remaining in the third, Brown knocked down a three-pointer and then blocked a dunk attempt by Dahntay Jones on the other end and on the ensuing possession knocked down another three-pointer. The Lakers demoralized the Pacers and then coasted in the fourth.
The only thing that was in doubt was whether the Laker fans would be getting free tacos. The chants began at around 4:30 left in the game and the Pacers at 87 points. With a minute and a half remaining, Dahntay Jones had a huge dunk to bring their total up to 97. The crowd booed furiously. I'm not sure if it was because Dahntay Jones tripped Kobe in the playoffs last year or if it was because those tacos were in jeopardy. With 10 seconds remaining, the Pacers had the ball and 99 points. But the Lakers actually ran a full-court press to stop the Pacers and bring free tacos to the Staples Center faithful.The Lakers need to play like there are tacos on the line all the time. Alright, I'm being a bit facetious here but they do need to bring the intensity they showed in the third quarter. That's what they'll need come playoff time and why not start getting into that mode now? 11 of their remaining 14 games this month are on the road. It's time to show that championship mettle.