Throughout this season, the Los Angeles Lakers would put on a dominant performance in the second half with their Friday night contest against the Indiana Pacers not being any different.
The Lakers frontcourt played a key role in their fourth-quarter play by attacking the paint with aggression and keeping the Pacers from scoring.
“We were getting stops, we were taking care of the ball,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “We talked about how in previous games like this, sometimes it’s a little disruptive in the first quarter, but we figure it out.”
Vogel noted how the team tends to get accustomed to their opponents’ pressure as the game goes on. This results in the Lakers having a strong finish. In this matchup, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma had an offensive surge late to lead the Lakers with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
LeBron James mentioned how he desires to feed the ball to teammates who are rolling offensively and Kuzma had the hot hands at that moment.
“I want to continue to give him the ball and continue to make plays, that’s the growth,” James said. “The growth in him is knowing that some games are gonna be different, it’s not gonna be high scoring nights, but he’s still able to make an impact, especially on the glass.”
Center Montrezl Harrell also put on his peak performance in the final phase, scoring eight of his 17 points during that time frame. LeBron extolled Harrell for his ability to get acclimated to the Lakers’ system during an abbreviated season.
“He stepped up big time offensively, we needed that push,” James said. “We hang our hats on our defense and [Harrell] got it going in that fourth quarter.”
Although the reigning champions are without center Marc Gasol (health and safety protocol) and forward Anthony Davis (right calf strain), they had the effort to clinch a victory. Davis will be out another two weeks due to his leg injuries. Kuzma explained how the Lakers roster must play a different brand of basketball because of Davis’ absence.
“Our team is predicated on [James] and [Davis] and everybody else fit in where they get in,” Kuzma said. “We’ve been playing that way for a year and a half. For us to think of another way to play offensively is a little challenging, but I think having Dennis (Schroder) back … and everybody playing really hard is going to help us out.”
The Lakers recently re-signed center Damian Jones to a second 10-day contract. He started for the second time with the franchise in the matchup.
“He’s very eager to learn, he still has some things that he has to learn as far as the system,” Harrell said. “The times that coaches ask him, the times the teams has asked him to do things, he’s always ready to learn.”
The Pacers took an early lead with guard Malcolm Brogdon pushing the pace. He carried Indiana with 18 points in the first quarter.
The Lakers began the second quarter with an eight-point run, but their offense slowed after guard Alex Caruso was sidelined with a head injury. Guard Aaron Holiday ignited a run that kept the Pacers in control until halftime.
During the third quarter, the Lakers made another eight-point run but they struggled to sustain it. The Purple and Gold did not work for second-chance points and Pacers players were being sent to the free-throw line.
Several Indiana players got into foul trouble in the final phase. James gave Harrell key assists and Kuzma scored three-pointers to keep control of the game.
“We needed stops, they kept going on their runs. We needed stops, more energy,” said Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “I think we did that that last couple minutes to finish the game out.”
The Lakers now travel to the Bay Area to battle the Golden State Warriors on March 15 at 7:30 P.M. and return to the Staples Center to host the Minnesota Timberwolves on the next day at 7:30 P.M.