The Los Angeles Lakers won the first game with LeBron James back in the lineup. However, they fell to the Warriors the following game as James sat. He is currently day-to-day as the team monitors his workload. Will he play in their game against the Pacers? How will the Pacers fare without Victor Oladipo?
Los Angeles heads in with a record of 27-26 and 11-14 on the road. The Pacers are fighting the Celtics and 76ers for playoff position in the east with a record of 33-19 and 18-7 at home. Both teams have been playing mediocre ball over the past ten game. The Lakers won the first meeting this season by eight points as home favorites, but the game has a different atmosphere this time around without some key players on each team.
Statistically speaking, the Lakers are 14th in scoring and 22nd in points allowed. Indiana relies heavily on a defense that has allowed the second fewest points in the league. Their weakness has been scoring and rebounding, ranked 22nd and 24th respectively. Los Angeles is one of the worst in the league at turning the ball over, which could be the deciding factor against a top notch defense like Indiana.
LeBron James leads the Lakers at 27.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game. Whether or not he plays is vital in determining the outcome in this one. The return of Kyle Kuzma (18.8 points, 5.8 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (9 points, 7.7 assists) has helped take the sting off the absence of James. Brandon Ingram has picked up the slack as well, dropping 17 points per game. JaValle McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Lance Stephenson (39 percent from 3-point range) has been good complimentary pieces.
The Pacers are looking for ways to make up for the loss of Victor Oladipo (18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists). Bojan Bogdanovic has become the main scorer, hitting 43 percent from long range and averaging 16.3 points per game. Damantos Sabonis could give the Lakers fits inside, scoring 14 and hauling in 9.3 rebounds per contest. Veteran Thaddeus Young could be effective, particularly if James is out of the lineup, while Darren Collison has to be watched from beyond the arc, hitting 43 percent for the season.
The Pacers will be home favorites, probably whether James plays of not. The Lakers don't have enough firepower on the road without him to win. Indiana will win easily without James in the lineup and the guess is that they win narrowly even if he plays. Look for a good, entertaining game either way that gets decided in the fourth quarter.