The Pacers have been one of the better home teams in basketball this season and their 26-7 record is proof to that.
To make matters worse, the Lakers may be without superstar Kobe Bryant after he suffered a severe ankle sprain on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks. Bryant is currently listed as a game-time decision and it wouldn't be a surprise if he does in fact suit up. But if Bryant does sit out, the Lakers will desperately need big games from a few people. Here are three players that must step up if Bryant is unable to play.
Since returning from the All-star break, Dwight Howard has been huge for the Lakers and has shown glimpses of returning to his old dominant self. Over the past five games, Howard has put up superb numbers of 21.8 points and 16.2 rebounds per game. Howard will not only need to put up a great scoring night, but will also need to put together a solid rebounding performance.
The Pacers currently rank first in the NBA in total rebounds per game with 45.6 and will have the advantage over the Lakers with Pau Gasol still out. Howard may have to have himself a 20-20 game if the Lakers want to come away with the victory.
With Bryant potentially sidelined for Friday's game, Steve Nash could be going back to his ball-dominating ways. Since joining the Lakers this season, Nash has had to adjust his game the most by having the ball less in his hands and becoming more of a spot-up shooter.
Nash will be the main distributor of this team if Bryant doesn't play. With Nash set to be at the wheel for the entire game, look for him to put up double-digit assists Friday night.
Jodie Meeks may be on the verge of receiving his first start of the season and will need to perform. In his first season with the team, Meeks put up decent averages of 8.0 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. As the potential replacement for Bryant in the starting lineup, Meeks will have to be a consistent threat from downtown in Friday's game in order to keep the Pacers from clogging up the paint and harassing Howard.
Meeks is currently shooting 38 percent from downtown and will need to provide multiple threes in Friday's game. If Meeks can get hot early, he could prove to be the key in unlocking Howard and Nash's big performances against the Pacers.