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Roy Hibbert

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Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

January 28, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers finally return from their 2-week Grammy’s road trip to play at STAPLES Center tonight. However, they will have to play the Indiana Pacers (34-9) tonight as a significant underdog. The Pacers have a very talented starting lineup and also an improved bench, especially with former All-Star F Danny Granger returning from a chronic knee issue.

Pacers F Paul George has blossomed into a bonafide NBA Superstar. Elected as an NBA All-Star starter this season, George plays both ends of the floor significantly well, scoring 23.5 PPG, grabbing 6.3 RPG, dishing out 3.4 APG, and take 1.9 SPG from his opponent which ranks him 7th in the league.

The Pacers also have 2 more potential all-stars on their team in C Roy Hibbert and G Lance Stephenson.

Hibbert, who many NBA experts consider as the best center in the Eastern Conference, makes his name as an anchor on the defensive end, blocking 2.6 shots per game, grabbing 7.8 RPG, and also contributing 11.9 PPG on the offensive end. His length and skills have made the Pacers the biggest threat to de-throne the 2-time NBA Champions Miami Heat throughout these last 3 seasons.

Stephenson has evolved from a bench-warmer to a potential all-star this season and also seems to be the probable winner of the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Stephenson has played this season much more under control and consistently, averaging 14.2 PPG, grabbing 7.0 RPG, and dishing out a team-leading 5.3 APG. Stephenson’s emergence has let Granger come back slowly by coming off the bench without any pressure this season.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have arguably had the worst defensive team in NBA history, allowing more than 100 points for every game in the year 2014 after their 1st game of this 2014 year. If the Lakers cannot get their act together on the defensive end, the Lakers will never become a winning basketball team no matter how much Head Coach Mike D’Antoni tries to improve its offense.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / George Hill [Advantage: Pacers]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Lance Stephenson [Advantage: Pacers]
SF - Wesley Johnson / Paul George [Advantage: Pacers]
PF - Ryan Kelly / David West [Advantage: Pacers]
C - Pau Gasol / Roy Hibbert [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Knicks: F Danny GrangerF Luis ScolaG CJ Watson, Ian Mahimi

Lakers: Nick YoungG Manny Harris, F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Pacers

Injury List

Pacers: None

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: Nothing to explain here. The Lakers have allowed 100 or more points in 31 out of 45 games so far this season, which. Before D’Antoni game-plans anything on the offensive end, he needs to shore up major deficiencies on the defensive end to have any chance of winning basketball games.

Bottom Line

Hopefully the Pacers play lethargically and play down to the Lakers level. The Lakers have to get off to an excellent start before the Pacers start getting warmed up. Otherwise, this will be a very ugly game for the Lakers versus a team that views this season as their best opportunity to win a championship.

Prediction

Pacers: 119-84

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