The Los Angeles Lakers finally returned home after their seven-game Grammys road trip and had the misfortune of facing the Indiana Pacers. After a mediocre showing early, the Pacers defense held the Lakers to 30.6 percent shooting in the second half to prompt the 104-92 win.
The Pacers (35-9) had given up an average of 59 points in the first half over the last three games and trailed each time. They were slightly better in L.A. and headed to the locker room tied at 49, but the Lakers shot 49 percent. Then Indy's defense took care of the rest.
As Lakers coach told TWC SportsNet sideline reporter Mike Trudell about his team's 30-20 beating in the third quarter, "Sometimes there is a lack of physical talent out there." With the litany of injuries, it's hard to argue with the coach's frank assessment.
The Pacers attempted 27 foul shots and missed a dozen in total, but they limited themselves to just four turnovers and dominated the paint to emerge from the road trip at 3-2.
Worse than the Lakers loss, Trudell delivered the unfortunate news that Kobe Bryant would be sidelined for at least three more weeks. He will do non-weight-bearing exercises and then be reevaluated.
Player grades start at a C+ for a decent overall performance. That increases by a full letter grade for certain extraordinary accomplishments and decreases by the same margin for less-than-ordinary performances. We'll put role players on the grading curve.
Instead of gold stars and frowny faces, here are grades for every player.
Key Pacers Grades
Paul George, Small Forward
Paul George couldn't find his shot early on, missing 10 of his first 12 field-goal attempts. But he is irrepressible. He canned a contested triple over Kendall Marshall to close the third quarter, but that didn't help get things going.
He still scored 14 points, but he ended on 4-of-21 shooting, and he even missed four of his nine foul shots. To his credit he added six dimes, five boards and two steals, but it was a seriously subpar night for his talents.
Roy Hibbert, Center
Roy Hibbert struggles when he has to defend his man outside the paint, and Gasol stretched him out on numerous occasions. It's hard to be a rim-protector when you're 16 feet away.
Hibbert still dominated in the paint and finished with 11 points and 10 boards. He tied for the team high in offensive rebounds with four as the Pacers won that battle 17-7. Indy outscored L.A. in the paint 58-44.
David West, Power Forward
David West really enjoyed matching up against rookie Ryan Kelly to start the first quarter. West scored seven of the Pacers' first nine points in the game before Kelly came out in favor of Manny Harris.
West led the Pacers with 19 points on an efficient 8-of-14 shooting. He added eight boards and a block and abused R. Kelly as an homage to Carmelo Anthony.
George Hill, Point Guard
George Hill did not come anywhere close to matching Kendall Marshall's gaudy assists total, but he still turned in an efficient offensive performance.
Hill was a lucky charm with 13 points, but the starting PG dished only three assists. He did add seven rebounds as Indy's starting backcourt grabbed 20 boards in total.
Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard
Lance Stephenson led all players with eight boards in the first half, but he had just five points. "Sir Lancelot" still turned in some highlight dunks as he shredded the Lakers in the paint on multiple occasions.
He woke up in the second half to drop 10 more points and flirt once again with a triple-double. He led all rebounders with 14, which is a head-scratcher, handed out six dimes and snagged a couple of steals.
Rest of the Bench
Danny Granger continues to live inside the shell of his former self like a hermit crab. He's still a useful player, but this is the man who led the Pacers in scoring for five seasons. He had 10 points but missed seven of 10 shots.
Luis Scola's hirsute presence has made him a leader up front with the second unit. Then again, trade pieces Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee have looked even better with the Phoenix Suns. Scola worked for eight points and six boards.
Ian Mahinmi stayed out of foul trouble and did his usual dirty work, scrapping down low, snagging rebounds and lunging for loose balls. Four of his six rebounds came on the offensive glass.
C.J. Watson notched nine points off the bench plus two assists and a steal. He rounds out an Indiana second unit that provides a similarly hard-nosed edge all its own.
Key Lakers Grades
Pau Gasol, Center
Gasol aggravated a groin injury in the first half and was late getting out of the locker room for the third quarter. He "tweaked" it, according to the TWC telecast, and he was clearly laboring to get up and down the court.
But he just kept scoring! Despite moving at three-fourths of his normal speed, Gasol's offensive instincts powered him through against a tough frontcourt.
He led all scorers with 21 points and notched a team-high 13 rebounds, but the Lakers offense broke down in the second half and gimpy Gasol could not save it.
Kendall Marshall, Point Guard
Kendall Marshall notched seven points and eight assists in the first half alone. He has more assists through his first 12 games than any Laker in history, and the Mike D'Antoni system sure is helping him shed that "bust" label. He's also a perfect fit because he is not a fan of defense.
Can you say, "Marshallsanity?"
Marshall tallied a double-double with 11 points and 13 dimes, hoisting up 11 field-goal attempts despite his pass-first credo.
Jodie Meeks, Shooting Guard
Jodie Meeks continued to be a potent scorer off the bench, though he couldn't light it up from behind the arc like he did against the New York Knicks on Jan. 26 with 6-of-8. Meeks hit just two of his eight tries from deep, but he still piled up 21 points and robbed a pair of steals.
Gasol is driving the bus, but Meeks is riding shotgun with him for now.
Nick Young, Shooting Guard
Nick Young came off the bench in his more familiar role, but his three-point shooting was caught up in a polar vortex.
Young clanged six of his seven looks at a three-pointer and finished with a dozen points on 5-of-16 shooting. That's not very swaggy.
Wesley Johnson, Small Forward
Wesley Johnson scored in double figures during seven of eight games to start the month of January. He now has six games in single digits. He did have a block and 10 boards to go with seven points, but his scoring is completely unreliable.
Rest of the Bench
Ryan Kelly started the game, but he failed to make an impact and spent substantial portions of the 48 minutes planted on the bench. He still managed 10 points, but that was aided by seven free-throw attempts. The rookie added two blocks as well.
Initially, it seemed that Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni would try to outrun the Pacers with a smaller lineup, but he trotted Jordan Hill off the bench for huge minutes. And that was a good idea because Hill notched a double-double with 10 and 12 and helped match Indy's size.
Manny Harris played energetic defense and did some work on the boards, but he was toting bricks on the offensive end by missing all six shots.
Robert Sacre was hacking and whacking for four fouls in 12 minutes.
The Lakers get two days off before playing the Charlotte Bobcats on Jan. 31. It will be just their third home game in a 13-game stretch. Incredibly, a three-game road swing follows that.
The Pacers return home after looking shaky in winning three of five on their road trip. They host the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 30, and they'll be eager for redemption after falling 124-100 in Arizona on Jan. 22.