LeBron James, Lakers Lose to Caris LeVert, Pacers After Blowing 15-Point Lead

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 20, 2022

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 19: Caris LeVert #22 of the Indiana Pacers dunks the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 19, 2022 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Indiana Pacers overcame a 15-point first-half deficit to earn a 111-104 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena on Wednesday.

Pacers guard Caris LeVert caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring 22 of his 30 points. Indiana big man Domantas Sabonis added a 20-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double. Their efforts helped Indiana outscore L.A. 35-24 in the final 12 minutes.

LeBron James' 30 points and 12 rebounds led the 22-23 Lakers, who have lost four of their last five games. Talen Horton-Tucker dropped 20 points and seven assists off the bench.

The Pacers continued to play without center Myles Turner (stress reaction in left foot). Lakers big man Anthony Davis sat for the 15th straight game with a sprained MCL.

Indiana guard Malcolm Brogdon returned to the court after sitting because of Achilles soreness. He had missed all but 25 minutes of game action since Dec. 16 with the injury.

Brogdon's comeback certainly had a positive effect on the Pacers, as the former University of Virginia star posted 19 points and six assists. With the win, the 16-29 Pacers also broke a four-game losing streak.


Notable Performances

Pacers C Domantas Sabonis: 20 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists

Pacers G Caris LeVert: 30 points, 8 rebounds

Pacers G Malcolm Brogdon: 19 points, 6 assists

Lakers F LeBron James: 30 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists

Lakers G Talen Horton-Tucker: 20 points, 7 assists

Lakers G Russell Westbrook: 14 points


LeVert's Dominant 4th Quarter Leads to Win

It was all LeVert in the final frame, dominating the Lakers' weak defense en route to an encouraging win for a struggling, shorthanded team.

A LeVert three-point play helped the Pacers tie the game at 85, a result that was achieved in part because Carmelo Anthony got a technical for throwing the ball against the stanchion.

Bally Sports Indiana @BallySportsIN

Great work by LeVert and Lamb to tie it up!<br>Stream: <a href="https://t.co/q9zoTrv89w">https://t.co/q9zoTrv89w</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldBlooded?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldBlooded</a> <a href="https://t.co/zi1RgDvgDf">pic.twitter.com/zi1RgDvgDf</a>


The Lakers responded with a bucket, but LeVert fired right back with a three:

Bally Sports Indiana @BallySportsIN

A big 3 from Caris gives the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pacers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Pacers</a> the lead!<br>Stream: <a href="https://t.co/q9zoTrv89w">https://t.co/q9zoTrv89w</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldBlooded?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldBlooded</a> <a href="https://t.co/hMF31z23Ky">pic.twitter.com/hMF31z23Ky</a>

LeVert stayed hot, hitting this midrange jumper for a 97-90 edge:

Bally Sports Indiana @BallySportsIN

Caris LeVert could not be hotter right now. πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯<br>Stream: <a href="https://t.co/q9zoTrv89w">https://t.co/q9zoTrv89w</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldBlooded?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldBlooded</a> <a href="https://t.co/wofLaLfmJB">pic.twitter.com/wofLaLfmJB</a>

That bucket occurred during a stretch where the Pacers scored on seven straight possessions.

Before that span, Indiana was down 87-85. When it ended, the Pacers were up 101-94. Along the way, LeVert had 12 points and an assist.

If not for a meaningless James layup with three seconds remaining, LeVert's 22 fourth-quarter points would have matched the Lakers' total as a team.

After the game, Sabonis gave his teammate a ton of credit.

Bally Sports Indiana @BallySportsIN

Sabonis on LeVert's 22-point fourth quarter: "He made all the right reads. They were giving him his mid-range, he was scoring and then he was going downhill. He was efficient. That's a big-time player. He's our scorer and we need him."<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldBlooded?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldBlooded</a> <a href="https://t.co/SpqYKEST4u">pic.twitter.com/SpqYKEST4u</a>

We'll soon find out if the Pacers can use this win, which was also helped by Brogdon's return, to lead to a late-season push to qualify for the playoffs.

For now, LeVert showcasing his dominant ceiling is encouraging as the second half of the year gets underway.


Lakers Reach a New Low

The Lakers' worst loss of the year arguably occurred last Saturday, when L.A. fell 133-96 to the Denver Nuggets.

But the Nuggets are a winning team that sports the NBA's hottest (and best) player in reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.

The Pacers' loss might be more troublesome, especially when considering that Indiana would have had twice as many defeats as wins if it fell to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Instead, the Pacers rolled over the host Lakers in the fourth quarter as L.A. was left searching for more answers after another puzzling loss.

The same problems that have been prevalent all year occurred yet again.

Nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook continued to struggle, shooting just 5-of-17 from the field after making just 30.3 percent of his field goals in the six games leading into Wednesday.

It was a discouraging result considering Westbrook made his first three shots from beyond the three-point line only to struggle down the stretch.

He also finished with a minus-18 mark, and head coach Frank Vogel opted to bench the star in the final minutes of the game.

Overall, the starting lineup largely failed to produce around James, posting just 24 points on 8-of-28 shooting in 79 total minutes of court time.

The bench nearly saved the Lakers, with Horton-Tucker dropping his 20 points (9-of-14 shooting) with seven assists and Carmelo Anthony adding 14 points and seven boards.

The Lakers' loss also overshadowed another milestone for James, who became the 42nd player in league history to record his 10,000th career rebound. He also became the first player ever to score 30,000 points, grab 10,000 rebounds, and dish out 9,000 assists.

But the real problem was that the Lakers' defense, which has been problematic all season, reared its ugly head in the fourth quarter.

The unit had zero answers for LeVert and Sabonis, who ultimately ended up scoring the Pacers' final 16 points as the Lakers were unable to cut Indiana's lead below five points down the stretch.

L.A. entered Wednesday 17th in defensive rating, per Basketball-Reference, after finishing first the year before despite missing James and Davis for huge chunks of the year due to injury.

A roster overhaul over the offseason has led to a far worse defensive team, and now the Lakers are in a position where they may struggle just to get out of the play-in tournament.


What's Next?

Indiana will visit the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco's Chase Center on Thursday at 10 p.m. ET. The Lakers will hit the road to face the Orlando Magic on Friday at 7 p.m. in Amway Center.