1. No Longer Wanted In Lakerland, Shaw Returns
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Shaw emerged from the boisterous visitors locker room at Staples Center -- a room he'd never seen the insides of before Sunday night -- and flashed a huge grin that told you just how significant the Indiana Pacers' 98-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers was to this particular member of Indiana's coaching staff.
After a playing career that took him to six other NBA teams, the Lakers had felt like a comfortable home. He wore a purple-and-gold uniform for his final four years on the court, then spent another seven years with the organization as a consultant and an assistant coach. He was thought to be the next in line for head coach when Phil Jackson retired last summer, but wound up getting caught in an organization-wide purge that took out people from the scouting staff to the equipment manager.
So Shaw came back to Staples Center on Sunday as a Pacers assistant, a man with a little extra motivation and a lot of insight into the Lakers' players.
Some things haven't changed. Kobe Bryant is still going to shoot and shoot a lot. But one thing that didn't look familiar to Shaw was the sight of Pau Gasol setting up in far different spots on the court than he did when the Lakers ran the triangle offense under Jackson.
"I did notice that he's out on the floor a lot more, a lot further away from the basket," Shaw said. "So that kind of neutralizes him. Those two big guys [Gasol and Andrew Bynum], that's always been the strength of this team. You want your biggest guys close to the basket.
"Their sets are a little different, they're out there more on the elbow area -- even sometimes Pau's out around the three-point line. I think maybe it's just going to take them a little time to get adjusted to the new places that he's at on the floor. In the triangle they knew where their shots were going to come night-in and night-out."
Now Gasol is left to wonder, and register a complaint. At least, I think it's a complaint. When Gasol said it, it was in a tone that sounded like he was ordering dinner. But it's pretty clear that he doesn't like the way he's being used in Mike Brown's offense.
"I would like to get a little more inside, myself," Gasol said. "I always like to have different looks and be able to attack from different angles. The second half I didn't have one chance to attack from the post, so I was more of a facilitator. I got two jumpers, open, that I missed, and that was all the opportunities that I had."
Technically, he also got a basket at the rim that the Pacers conceded with a four-point lead in the final seconds. But he spent most of the night on the perimeter, occasionally heeding Bryant's call to come over to set a high screen, or else following Kobe's direction to spread out to give Kobe operating space. The low post belongs to Bynum. And while Gasol is happy to get Bynum the ball there -- including a nice alley-oop that was among 10 Gasol assists -- Gasol wants a few touches down in the paint himself.
"A little too many jumpers for my taste," Gasol said. "I'd like to get a couple more looks inside the paint. That'll increase the [shooting] percentage."
Something needs to be done, because his 51.8 percent from the field is his lowest as a Laker, and his 4-for-12 outing matched his numbers from Friday night in Orlando, and it was only slightly better than the 3-for-11 performance he had against Dallas on Jan. 16. (His 11-for-19 outing in Miami on Thursday night is looking like an aberration, when it used to be his standard).
Gasol's shots are not going to come at the expense of Bryant, who continues to shoot at a high volume and has every reason to continue to do so as long as the rest of the players aren't knocking down shots. He took 30 shots Sunday, made 14 of them and finished with 33 points. (The non-Kobe Lakers shot 39 percent.)
The Lakers scored more points than usual Sunday because they forced more turnovers than usual and got early fast-break points.
It actually fit right into the Pacers' agenda.
"We wanted to speed the game up," Shaw said. "I know from being here the last few years, teams like Oklahoma City that have a lot of speed had given us trouble."
With a faster game, the Lakers' defense wasn't as stout. The rotations weren't sharp, one reason the Pacers hit 10 of 18 3-point shots.
"The pace got a little ahead of us, I think," Lakers forward Matt Barnes conceded.
So an early 13-point lead was nearly wiped out by halftime. Then the Pacers' inside-out attack and balanced scoring (six players in double figures, led by Roy Hibbert's 18) made it a back-and-forth game throughout the second half.
In the fourth quarter, the Pacers sprung double-teams on Bryant. He passed to Gasol for a jumper that missed. He gave the ball to Fisher, who drove the lane and got caught making an awkward attempted lob to Bynum. Bryant's only shot attempt in the final 2:58 was a long, desperation 3-pointer with a couple of seconds remaining. The Pacers succeeded in making it about the other Lakers vs. Indiana, not Kobe vs. Indiana, and it got the Lakers -- and Shaw -- the victory.
"We definitely wanted to get this for B Shaw," Pacers forward Danny Granger said. "Whatever happened between him and the Lakers, that's old news, but he was definitely fired up."
Shaw saw Brown this summer and let him know he held no ill will toward him, and even offered his number in case Brown wanted to hear his perspective on the Lakers' players (Brown never took him up on it). Shaw shared that and other thoughts at midcourt before the game, with the three championships he contributed to among the giant banners hanging high above his head.
"Those memories are never going to go anywhere," Shaw said. "In terms of trying to be focused on what I'm doing with this team, my mentality has always been, even if I faced a teammate, somebody we traded, if you're not with us, you're against us. My mentality is the Lakers are just like any other team we're going to play. We want to beat them. Until the game is over, we can hug and shake hands and talk. Right now they're the opponent that's standing in our way."
The Pacers stepped over them, just as the Magic and the Heat did in the Lakers' previous two games. Things are off in Lakerland. That's no longer Shaw's concern.
2. Pacers Succeed To The 10th Power
Sunday against the Lakers, the Pacers got their best win of the season. And as has been the case all season, they won not due to one player taking over but because various guys stepped up at opportune times.
The Lakers had won nine games in a row in the Staples Center, but Indiana earned a victory because their big men outplayed Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Roy Hibbert played his best game of the season despite breaking his nose in the early going. He shot 9-for-13 to go with 8 boards and 4 assists in just 27 minutes. Whenever Hibbert got good, deep post position, he either scored himself with a refined post move or kicked out to someone on the perimeter who had an advantage.
David West got a near-double-double of his own, with 15 points and nine boards. He made shots in the paint that he has been missing all too often this season while playing himself back into shape, and it was his early effectiveness that kept Indiana close in a game that could have gone the other way.
The Pacers were down 13 after the first quarter but outscored the Lakers by 15 the rest of the way as their inside-out attack dominated. It wasn't just the offense, however. On the other end, they -- and specifically Paul George -- bothered Kobe when he tried to create, and disrupted the Lakers' offense with rotations and team rebounding. As it turns out, the 6-foot-9 guard is one of the few players who can both stay in front of Kobe and bother his fadeaways when he reverts to those tough looks.
Between this, and some key possessions from Darren Collison and even the unlikely hero Dahntay Jones, it was a true team effort that prevailed. Indiana finished the game with six players in double figures, yet none scoring 20.
Honestly, however, this was no real surprise. All season, the Pacers have been relying on 10 players to beat teams that expect more for less. That's just what they do. And increasingly, even minus a dominant scorer, it's starting to seem that this is an effective way to beat even the best teams in the NBA.
3. No Cash For This Clunker
MIAMI -- LeBron James learned a new word on Sunday: clunker.
It actually has a lot of uses if you consult the Urban Dictionary, but in this case it applied to the dreck the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks displayed in a low-execution and generally unattractive game. Though the Bucks are more used to playing these sorts of games, especially offensively, it ended up playing into their favor in a 91-82 upset victory.
Shane Battier, a Duke graduate, was very much a part of the Heat's overall clunkiness, and he properly called the game a clunker for the Heat, who had won three straight home games against strong opposition. In this usage, it should be assumed, Battier was comparing the game to a battered and broken-down old car.
"I don't even know what that means," James said when asked to affirm Battier's diagnosis. "Shane has words I've never heard, maybe it's a college word."
Well, add it to the vocab list, because that's what it was for the Heat. So far, they had been immune to several lockout-related ills that had infected much of the league. The majority of their team arrived at training camp in good condition and didn't have to play their way into shape. They haven't had to play a back-to-back-to-back set yet. And, until Sunday, they hadn't had to endure a spell of dead-legged play that seems to have plagued numerous games over the first month of play. This game was a nonsequitur compared to the other 15 games in the Heat's season.
4. Extreme Behavior
Roy Hibbert, Pacers: Playing with a busted honker, the Indy big man scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter in a 98-96 win over the Lakers. Hibbert left with the broken nose after fouling Kobe with 6:46 left in the first quarter. With stuffed cotton up his nose, he returned in the second quarter.
Jose Calderon, Raptors: He missed 7 of 8 shots from the floor in a 103-91 loss to the Clippers. Calderon also matched his season low for assists (four) with the Raps, who now have sole possession of last place in the Atlantic Division.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"We can't make no excuses for ourselves. But no one had energy from the start of the game to the end."
-- Heat forward LeBron James, after his team lost to the Bucks.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
I am 80% certain Miami's uniforms violate the Geneva Convention.— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) January 22, 2012
5. Familiar Face
6. NBA Video Channel
7. Howard Nears Record
Dwight Howard needs 26 points to become the Orlando Magic's all-time leading scorer. What are the chances he gets it Monday night against the Celtics and their pseudo-centers? What are the chances soon-to-be-No. 2 Nick Anderson will be watching?
Howard is coming off a 21-point, 23-rebound submission against the Lakers (a 92-80 Orlando victory) for his fifth 20/20 game of the season. One of those was the first 40/20 game in the NBA in eight years (45 points, 23 rebounds against the Warriors). All of the trade talk doesn't seem to be remotely bothering Howard, who is averaging 20.2 points and 16.1 rebounds a game. He even leads the Magic in steals at 1.4 a game.
The Celtics will be hard-pressed to even irritate Howard. Jermaine O'Neal has had his moments, but he is overmatched. After that, there's who? Poor Brandon Bass had to deal with Howard in practice the past few years. As Doc Rivers said earlier this season, "We'll see how big his eyes get when he has to defend him in a game."
8. Triple-Double, Almost
Deron Williams scored 19 points with 10 assists in the Nets' 97-87 win over the Bobcats, but he missed the first triple-double of his NBA career by the margin of a single rebound. Williams has recorded 215 double-doubles, by far the most by any active NBA guard who has never posted a triple-double. Jose Calderon is a distant second on that list with 76 double-doubles.