Playing Some Defense

Long known for their stifling defense, the Indiana Pacers are one of the top-scoring teams in the league. But keeping up with the Los Angeles Lakers may be too much to ask.

The high-powered Lakers (20-11) look for their sixth win in seventh games on Sunday when they host the Pacers, who are beginning a five-game Western road trip.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Los Angeles -8.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 215.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 64% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles -8.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Los Angeles has scored 107.0 points per game - third-best in the league - but has been even better lately. In their last three wins, the Lakers have averaged 123.0 points, highlighted by a 124-93 victory over Philadelphia on Friday - their most lopsided win of the season.

They recorded their best shooting percentage in more than 23 years by making 66.2 percent (47-for-72) of their shots.

"I enjoy these games because it helps build momentum,'' Kobe Bryant said.

The Lakers have had plenty to work with lately. They've won 11 of their last 14 and have outscored their opponents by 7.8 points per contest.

If recent history is any indication, a visit from the Pacers may help pad those numbers. Los Angeles has beaten Indiana at Staples Center eight straight times in the regular season and 11 times overall, including three wins in the 2000 NBA finals.

While Kobe Bryant is still the primary offensive option and averaging 26.7 points - second only to LeBron James - the Lakers have had more success due to better balance. Ten players average at least 6.3 points, and accordingly, Bryant's average is five points lower than last season and almost nine points below his league-leading 35.4 per game in 2005-06.

Los Angeles also has one of the league's highest-scoring benches, averaging 35.6 points. The Lakers received 54 from their reserves on Friday, including 19 from rookie Javaris Crittenton and 16 from Jordan Farmar.

Another key to the team's emergence as a Western power has been Andrew Bynum. The 20-year-old center is averaging 12.4 points and 10.0 rebounds, and has 16 double-doubles - six more than last season.

Bynum is second in the NBA in field-goal percentage (62.5) and 10th in blocked shots (2.0).

Like the Lakers, the Pacers (16-18) haven't had much trouble scoring. Indiana is second in the Eastern Conference with 103.0 points per game.

The Pacers had only averaged 92.6 points, however, in losing five in a row from Dec. 26-Jan. 2. But Indiana finally regained its scoring touch on Friday, beating Atlanta 113-91 to snap its skid.

"It becomes sort of mental to a point," said forward Danny Granger, who tied a career high with 32 points. "We gave some games away to teams we probably should have beaten, but we got some good momentum going into the West Coast."

Granger is second on the team with 16.6 ppg, but he had struggled during the team's losing streak, averaging just 10.6 points.

"It's definitely good to see him scoring,'' center Jermaine O'Neal said. "We need him to really lock in and bring that every single night for us."

Despite the Pacers' problems, Mike Dunleavy has emerged as the team's leading scorer. The small forward, who averages 17.4 points, has scored 19.1 points per game over his last 10.

Indiana has been without point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who injured his hamstring on Dec. 28, for its last four games. Tinsley, whose 8.7 assists per game rank fifth in the league, is expected to return during the road trip.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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