In a rematch of the 2000 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers will travel to play the Indiana Pacers.
This will be a battle of two of the league's elite teams. The Lakers have won 17 of their past 24, while the Pacers remain within the Top 3 in the Eastern Conference.
So which hot team will hold on?
The Lakers are 34-32 overall and 12-21 on the road. They're coming off of a 96-92 loss to the short-handed Atlanta Hawks in which the Lakers collapsed down the stretch.
Indiana, meanwhile, recently downed the Minnesota Timberwolves by a score of 107-91. They're now 40-24 overall and 26-7 at home.
Will this game play out as the numbers suggest?
Time: Friday, Mar. 15 at 7:00 p.m. EDT
TV: TWC SN & FxMW
Records: Los Angeles Lakers (34-32, 12-21 road) at Indiana Pacers (40-24, 26-7 home)
Betting Line: N/A as of Mar. 13 at 6:42 p.m.
Los Angeles Lakers Injury Report
Earl Clark, Sprained Right Ankle, Questionable
Pau Gasol, Torn Plantar Fascia, Out
Jordan Hill, Hip Surgery, Out
Indiana Pacers Injury Report
Danny Granger, Knee Soreness, Out
Key Storyline: Fighting for Position
As of Mar. 13, the Indiana Pacers are .002 win percentage points ahead of the New York Knicks for second in the Eastern Conference. The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, are a full game behind the Houston Rockets for seventh and 2.5 behind the Golden State Warriors for sixth.
So who's going to get a much-needed win and improve their postseason positioning?
They may be in different conferences, but neither team can afford to lose this game. Not with a drop out of their current seeding just as close as an improvement.
With everything on the line, a win is a necessity.
Key Matchup: Antawn Jamison vs. David West
We have a pair of All-Star battles in Kobe Bryant against Paul George and Dwight Howard versus Roy Hibbert. The fact of the matter is that there will be a battle that defines this game much more than any of the star-studded matchups.
David West against Antawn Jamison.
The most common misbelief about the Indiana Pacers is that Paul George is the lone star in town. Another misconception is that George is the player whom Indiana turns to in clutch situations.
With that being said, George is third on the Pacers in clutch field goals (via Basketball-Reference). The leader is West and second is George Hill.
In fact, West is ninth in the NBA in clutch field goals (via Basketball-Reference).
With this in mind, it's imperative that Jamison is able to step up on West and defend him in clutch situations. The key for Jamison is to prepare for isolation sets in which West attempts to muscle his way to the hoop.
Jamison's ability to step up defensively against West will be the difference between victory and defeat for L.A.
X-Factor: George Hill, Indiana Pacers
If the Indiana Pacers are to achieve victory, they must receive a quality contribution from point-guard George Hill. That need was on full display during a recent 105-91 loss to the Miami Heat, as Hill scored just seven points on 2-of-5 shooting.
So which Hill will we see?
Matched up against a sharpshooting Steve Nash, Hill will need to step up as a scorer. This was on display on Nov. 27, as the Pacers won 79-77 behind Hill's 19 points.
Hill also hit the game-winner.
With that being said, this is a much different Lakers team. They've finally found their rhythm and have become a dominant force, with Nash's sharpshooting serving as a major factor.
Hill's ability to counter Nash will be a deciding factor in this one.
The Los Angeles Lakers are red-hot, having won 17 of their past 24 games. With that being said, the Indiana Pacers are one of the best home teams in the NBA at 26-7.
Who will win?
So what will happen when these two unstoppable forces meet?
The Lakers are likely to attack the Pacers, looking to Kobe Bryant to penetrate and Dwight Howard to control the offensive glass. With that being said, L.A. is facing a team that ranks first in opponent field-goal percentage and rebounding.
L.A. will find it difficult to score against Indiana. Just don't think the Pacers will have it much easier.
Bryant will get it going late and D-12 will out-duel Roy Hibbert along the interior. With Paul George and George Hill stroking it from three and David West taking over in the fourth, however, Indiana will defend their home court.
A tough, but well-earned victory.
Indiana Pacers 92, Los Angeles Lakers 87