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Five things to watch in Lakers-Pacers matchup

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Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (10-7) return to Staples Center on Sunday and host the Indiana Pacers (10-4).

1. Can the Lakers bounce back at home? The disparity between the Lakers' home record (9-1) and road record (1-6) remains staggering. The difference between home and road games points to a number of areas. That includes points per game (93.8 at home, 89.7 on the road), shooting percentage (47.1%, 42.4%) and rebounds (46, 43.4). Individually the home-road disparity points mostly to Lakers center Andrew Bynum (16.9 points and 14.3 rebounds per game at home, 14.7 points and 12.8 rebounds per game on the road).

The Lakers mostly pointed to their opponents for the poor road record, which included losses to the Portland Trail Blazers, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, all playoff-contending teams. But the team also acknowledged the energy at Staples Center giving them an extra boost. After losing a back-to-back at Miami and Orlando, it will be interesting to see to what degree the home crowd will help improve the Lakers' play.

2. The Lakers will face a tough test on offense. This points to the Lakers' most pressing need. But they can't expect to fill it right away for reasons going beyond the team's own personnel. Indiana boasts the third-best defense in the league, holding teams to 89.9 points per game and a league-best 40.1% shooting. Meanwhile, the Lakers have scored fewer than 100 points for nine consecutive games, have remained second to last in the NBA from three-point range (25.7%) and have shot 45.1% overall. It's critical the Lakers remain patient, while adopting the five ways proposed earlier on how to fix their offensive struggles.  

3. The Lakers may have to win with defense. That's become their calling-card all season, and it's probable they'll have to rely on that to secure a win against Indiana. That's because the Lakers have limited teams to 90.06 points per game (fifth in NBA) on 41.1% shooting (third best). Meanwhile, the Pacers have also struggled offensively, ranking 18th overall in points per game (92.9) and 26th in shooting percentage (41.5%). Perhaps that zone defense Lakers Coach Mike Brown has occasionally used will become useful against Indiana. After all, it worked for Sacramento.

 

4. Kobe Bryant vs. Paul George may be fun to watch. Bryant has made an early case for NBA regular-season most valuable player, averaging a league-best 30.4 points with a torn ligament in his right wrist. Even through the Lakers' struggles, Bryant has mostly remained consistent. But it will be interesting to see to what degree George can do to either force Bryant to take an unhealthy number of shots or just make a dominating performance too tiresome to execute. George checked Derrick Rose during last year's playoffs pretty well, and has both the height (6 feet 9) and agility to counter strong scorers.

5. Josh McRoberts meets his former team. He admitted he's geared up for this game, particularly after his 2 1/2 seasons with Indiana ended fairly hastily. It remains to be seen how much of a role, if any, this will play in tonight's game since the Lakers' bench remains 19th overall in points per game (27). The Lakers would largely welcome anything, though, to help spark a struggling reserve unit.

RELATED:

Mike Brown calls Brian Shaw a "peer of mine"

Josh McRoberts holds mixed feelings about Indiana

Five ways to improve the Lakers' offense

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photos: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant draws a foul from Indiana center Roy Hibbert after beating guard Brandon Rush on a drive in the fourth quarter of a 2010-11 regular-season game. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

 
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