LeBron James Drops 38 as Lonzo Ball, Lakers Earn 104-96 Win over Pacers

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorNovember 30, 2018

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, center, shoots as Indiana Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic, left, of Croatia, and center Myles Turner defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

LeBron James had 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Indiana Pacers, 104-96, at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Domantas Sabonis had 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Pacers, who fell to 13-9. The Lakers are now 12-9.


Domantas Sabonis' Emergence as All-Star Talent Puts Pacers Over Top

Indiana Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo has missed six straight games with a knee injury, but the Pacers have stayed afloat at 3-3 during that stretch thanks in part to Sabonis' efforts.

The 22-year-old big man has posted 17.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in Oladipo's absence. He's also been a model of efficiency with a 60.6 percent field-goal rate.

Entering Thursday's game, Sabonis ranked ninth among qualified players in player efficiency rating at 26.4. He also ranked third in win shares per 48 minutes, per Basketball Reference. The site also posted a stat that joins Sabonis with one of the game's legends if he keeps his current rate going:

Basketball Reference @bball_ref

Domantas Sabonis is averaging 21.5 points and 14.6 rebounds per 36 minutes If he keeps it up, he'd be the first player since Kareem to do that in one of his first 3 NBA seasons https://t.co/r9sWoX84SQ https://t.co/S8Gf0i2gNj

Furthermore, he and center Myles Turner have formed a dynamic frontcourt duo. Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star posted a stat that explained their recent success on the court together:

Nat Newell @NatJNewell

Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis continue to improve when on the court together. Here's a look at their net rating in 5-game increments this season. https://t.co/CCZhEaN74r https://t.co/T1Pg1pR31j

While Turner had an off night with six points, six rebounds and a minus-12, the two can hold their own with most NBA frontcourts. Turner is only 22 years old as well, so he and Sabonis should only improve with time.

Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation made a succinct point about Sabonis, calling him a "big problem." That's been the case for more teams besides the Lakers, however, which puts the Pacers squarely in the dark-horse conversation for the Eastern Conference title.

Despite the loss, the Pacers are still in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. If Sabonis continues to improve and the Pacers maintain good health, they'll be a tough out in the playoffs.


Lakers' Over-Reliance on James Will Prevent Postseason Success

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson made comments on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Thursday regarding the team's reliance on LeBron James over the first 20 games of the season:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

😲 https://t.co/g7faGmVtwu

Johnson explained his points in further detail when he said the team would look to prevent an overabundance of playing time, in addition to an over-reliance on his ball-handling abilities.

The Lakers' problem is that task is easier said than done, as evidenced by Thursday's game.

Los Angeles led 38-15 after the first quarter and looked like it would coast to a win over the Oladipo-less Pacers. James took a seat to start the second quarter, but the game's momentum changed as the Pacers cut the lead to 17 midway through the frame.

The 16-year veteran came back into the game, but the Pacers' offensive hot streak continued as they cut the lead to six by halftime.

James went only 1-of-3 during the second quarter but otherwise shot the lights out in the midst of a 15-of-27 performance. Meanwhile, no other Lakers made more than six field goals or scored more than 14 points. For the night, James led the team in points and assists and co-led in rebounds. He was also the leader in plus/minus at plus-19.

In fairness to the Lakers, four members of their rotation (Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram) are 23 years old or younger and still developing their games. Tossing them together with a new group of veterans added in the offseason is an understandable work in progress.

Still, the Lakers aren't going far in the playoffs if the formula remains similar to the one Cleveland had last year, in which James more or less put the Cavaliers on his back en route to the NBA Finals. The Western Conference is too tough and deep with 10 teams at .500 or better, while last year's Eastern Conference wasn't nearly as strong.


What's Next

The Lakers face the Dallas Mavericks on Friday at home. The Mavs have won three straight and seven of their last eight.

The Pacers finish a four-game Western Conference road trip with a Saturday matchup at the Sacramento Kings.