LOS ANGELES LAKERS (34-32)
at INDIANA PACERS (40-24)
Tip-off: Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: Indiana -9.5, Total: 190
The Pacers will be going for their second straight win when they take the floor at home against a Kobe Bryant-less Lakers team on Friday night.
Indiana is coming off a 16-point victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday, while the Lakers lost 96-92 in Atlanta that same night. The game wasn’t the only thing the Lakers lost though. On a fadeaway attempt with less than five seconds left in the game, star SG Kobe Bryant severely sprained his ankle and is out indefinitely. These teams have split eight meetings (4-4 SU) over the past five seasons, but the Pacers hold the 5-3 ATS advantage and have won the two most recent matchups (both SU and ATS). This includes a 79-77 victory in their lone meeting this season on Nov. 27 when George Hill connected on a game-winning layup as time expired. That outcome doesn't bode well for the Lakers who are just 2-12 ATS on the road revenging an SU loss when favored versus an opponent over the past two seasons. But Indiana is just 3-4 ATS in its past seven games and just 29-46 ATS (39%) off a home win in the past three seasons, and it will once again be playing without star SF Danny Granger, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
Can the Pacers take advantage of the Lakers missing their superstar and cover the huge spread on Friday night? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. All four experts remain red-hot in NBA Best Bets. StatFox Gary is 68% ATS (13-6) in March and 70% ATS (21-9) since Feb. 20, StatFox Brian is 64% ATS (14-8) since Feb. 28, StatFox Dave is 59% ATS (10-7) since March 2, and StatFox Scott is 57% ATS (36-27) since Feb. 3. The experts are a collective 56% ATS (136-107) since February began, and Scott is now 55% ATS (106-88-1) for the season, Gary is 54% ATS (84-73-4) and Brian is 52% ATS (103-97-3). For NBA Totals, Gary is a perfect 8-0 since March 7, Brian is 3-1 in his past four days, and Scott is 62% (13-8-1) since Feb. 22 to raise his season record to 56.3% (89-69-1) in Totals.
The Lakers were rolling before coming up short in Atlanta, winning nine of the previous 11 games including four straight wins. The Lakers had a chance to extend that streak to five in the closing seconds, but SG Kobe Bryant missed a baseline jumper and sprained his ankle on Dahntay Jones’ foot on the way down. With PF Pau Gasol (foot) also out, the Lakers only chance to keep this game close would be to feed C Dwight Howard (16.4 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.4 BPG). In recent games, Howard has really started to look like the player that was so heavily sought after this past summer. In the past five contests (all double-doubles), the All-Star is averaging 21.8 PPG and 16.2 RPG. During this five-game stretch, Howard has not only been efficient offensively (57% FG), but has been the anchor for Los Angeles on the defensive end (3.4 BPG and 2.0 SPG). Howard has averaged 18.8 PPG and 12.0 RPG in 30 career games versus the Pacers, and scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting when these teams met in November. Not only did he have eight boards and four blocks that game, but he also caused Indiana C Roy Hibbert to foul out of the game after struggling to play him clean. PG Steve Nash (12.4 PPG, 6.7 APG) is going to have to drastically change the way he’s played this season, especially lately where he's looked to score more with 14.6 PPG over his past 10 contests. Nash will be a lot more like he was in Phoenix without Bryant in the lineup on Friday, as they’ll need him to be the primary ball-handler and distributor. His offense has been strong over the past four games with 15.0 PPG on 49% FG and 6-of-12 threes.
The Pacers lost in Miami by 14 points just two games ago on Sunday, but they responded with a 16-point victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday, shooting 50% from the floor in the 107-91 win. In that game, C Roy Hibbert (10.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG) had perhaps his most dominant game of the season, finishing with 27 points (10-of-15 FG), 12 rebounds and four blocks. Hibbert has struggled with his confidence at times throughout the season, but he should be feeling good after his recent stretch of play. He is now averaging 16.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 3.6 BPG over the past five games. PF David West (17.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG) should also be able to dominate down low with the Lakers missing Pau Gasol and possibly Earl Clark (ankle) as well. West has averaged a healthy 17.2 PPG and 9.3 RPG in six March games including 13 points, 10 boards and six assists in Wednesday's win. SG Paul George (17.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.0 APG) is somebody the Pacers would obviously love to get going, as he’s scored just 13.5 PPG on 36% FG in the past two games. A player to watch for the Pacers is their rookie guard Orlando Johnson (3.8 PPG). Over the past two games, the first-year player is averaging 10.0 PPG (7-of-12 FG, 4-of-8 threes) and has looked more than comfortable in the minutes he’s received.