Up Lakers: Indiana Pacers In-Season Tournament Finals loss to Los Angeles Lakers showed their need for….

LAS VEGAS—Indiana’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the In-Season title game perfectly illustrated one of the problems the Pacers have had all season.

On the biggest stage they were once again defeated by size. In November, the Pacers were defeated 132-131 by the Toronto Raptors. The fact that the Raptors, who currently hold 23rd place in the NBA rankings, were able to score so easily was concerning, and Indiana acknowledged this after the game. Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes combined for nearly 70 points for Toronto that night. “Big wings have been a struggle for us all year,” Pacers star guard Tyrese Haliburton said after the game. This was evident again during the in-season tournament finals and has been a problem for the Pacers for several seasons. Since losing Thaddeus Young in 2019, they have been looking for capable fullbacks with size. Sometimes they got it from T.J. Warren, Justin Holiday, Oshae Brissett, Chris Duarte and Torrey Craig in recent years, but not consistently. None of these players are yet with the Bleu et Or. The Lakers, meanwhile, fielded four players at least 6 feet tall on Saturday night: Taurean Price, Cam Reddish, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Off the bench they had Jarred Vanderbilt (6-foot-1), Rui Hachimura (6-foot-1) and Jaxson Hayes (6-foot-1). Two-thirds of their rotation were more than 8 feet tall. Only four of the 10 guys who played for Indiana met that criteria, and one of them was Bennedict Mathurin, who is skinny and is arguably more of a guard than a wing. Myles Turner, Isaiah Jackson and Obi Toppin were the only traditionally sized Pacers players to suit up Saturday. The Pacers have had success playing small ball all season. They play extremely fast and have a powerful attack; their staff fits that style well. But they have been too small many times this season and it has cost them a lot of money. It happened again Saturday against Los Angeles.“Every team doesn’t have Anthony Davis and a bunch of 6-8, 6-9 wings, so there’s that too,” Haliburton said after the loss. Davis was fantastic. The Pacers had no answer for him as he had 41 points and 20 rebounds, staggering numbers. Turner was fouled for Indiana as Davis gave him fits all night. James was also great for the Lakers, finishing the game with 24 points and 11 rebounds before being named the season’s tournament MVP. The Pacers tried different players with varying degrees of success, and 6-foot-2 Aaron Nesmith was often the best option. 65 combined points is a ton, but James and Davis are excellent against any team. Together they averaged nearly 50 points per game and both played more minutes than usual in the season tournament setting. Indiana did worse than average against them, but they are stars. They should have some important evenings. What we were concerned about were the other wings and bigger players giving the Pacers offense. Reddish, Vanderbilt, Hayes, Prince and Hachimura were all efficient in their minutes, and Indiana couldn’t get the run going with so many players succeeding all night.

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