The Pacers shot 37 percent – including a 1-of-23 stretch in the first half – missed 15 3-pointers and 10 free throws, and had as many assists as turnovers (17).
Indiana made two buckets in the final 4½ minutes.
And Kobe scored 40.
That isn’t much of a recipe for success but thanks to George Hill, the Pacers managed a delicious – and potentially significant – 79-77 win over Bryant and the Lakers in Staples Center Tuesday night.
Hill hit the game’s two biggest shots, a beautiful teardrop over Dwight Howard that put the Pacers up 77-74 with 35 seconds left. Then, after Bryant hit one of those ridiculous fallaway 3-pointers to tie it, Hill struck again.
In a pick-and-roll with David West, he took off when Metta World Peace – who initially was his defender – drifted on a switch, leaving Pau Gasol a bad angle. So Hill took off for the bucket and scooped another high-arcing shot over Howard for the victory.
Staples Center has become a home away from home for the Pacers, who’ve won three straight there – by a combined margin of seven points.
This was a potentially huge victory for the Pacers, who now have two days off before completing their California trip with a weekend back-to-back (Sacramento Friday, Golden State Saturday).
After blowing a 17-point lead and losing to San Antonio at home in their last game, the Pacers had a 13-point third-quarter lead this time and were up 74-66 with 4:30 left but the Lakers came back to tie it twice.
An Indiana team with wobbly confidence could ill afford to lose two in a row like that.
“It’s a huge confidence-booster,” said Frank Vogel. “What enabled us to build steam towards the second half of last year and have a great second half of last year, was early road wins. We hadn’t gotten any yet this year, and we talked about it and said this is our opportunity to get that first quality road win, and the guys came through.”
That they overcame quite a bit of adversity also should help.
Roy Hibbert was a non-factor for most of the game. He got off to a great start with six points and four rebounds in the first four minutes before picking up his second foul. He had one picket and one rebound the rest of the night. Ian Mahinmi kept that from being a disaster, racking up 11 points and six boards in 30 aggressive, impressive minutes off the bench.
David West once again carried them through the tough times, flirting with a triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists).
And Hill was big throughout with 19 points, five assists and five rebounds.
The game may have been won in the first half when, after bolting to a 25-13 lead, the Pacers missed 22 of their next 23 shots – and did not relinquish the lead. By all rights, the Lakers should’ve pounced but could get no closer than 29-28 before Indiana finally found the bucket again.
The Lakers simply did not have the rhythm or chemistry to take advantage. Though Bryant was sick (literally and figuratively), the rest of the team looked lost in Mike D’Antoni’s system. No ball movement, no ball reversal, just give it to Kobe and get out of the way.
Bryant took 28 shots and committed 10 turnovers. Nobody else took more than 10 shots. The Lakers shot 32 percent, missed 22 3-pointers and 20 free throws.
Impressive defense by the Pacers, to be sure. But some ugly offense by the Lakers.
Doesn’t matter. To the Pacers, the outcome was beautiful.