Roy Hibbert wasn’t going to let a broken nose stop him, especially against the Los Angeles Lakers and twin towers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. The Indiana center just kept playing and ended up having a big finish to help the pull out a tough road win.
Hibbert, the Pacers’ second-leading scorer, left the court with the broken nose after fouling Kobe Bryant with 6:46 left in the first quarter. But Hibbert persevered and scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth to help them beat the Lakers 98-96 on Sunday night.
”Kobe spun baseline, I jumped straight up and he inadvertently elbowed me in the face,” said Hibbert, one of six Pacers to score in double figures. ”It didn’t hurt that much. I couldn’t get it fixed up because they didn’t have a doctor here to put it back in place, but I went back here and got an X-ray done.”
Tyler Hansbrough replaced Hibbert and missed all five shots during Hibbert’s brief absence, but grabbed seven rebounds. Hibbert reported back in with 5:12 left in the second quarter after a trainer stuffed cotton up his nose, but he had difficulty keeping it in at times. He also had eight rebounds in 27 minutes.
”They didn’t want me to come back out, but I told them I’m going to no matter what,” said Hibbert, who was still bleeding after coming out of the showers. ”So if I got hit again, that’s fine. I could always get cosmetic surgery at the end of the season to fix it. I’m a tough player, and I just wanted to play through it and make sure we got this win. This game was really important to us. I just wanted to make sure I found open shooters and cutters and score whenever I could.”
Hibbert, more than willing to get his nose dirty, scored six consecutive points in the paint to cut the margin to one with 6:15 left, and former UCLA guard Darren Collison’s 3-pointer tied it at 86 with 5:32 left.
Bryant, who scored 33 points, missed what would have been a tying 3-pointer from 30 feet from the top of the key with 3.5 seconds to play and Indiana clinched it at the free throw line.
”We knew we had to stop Kobe,” Danny Granger said. ”He’s the key to their offense, so that was our main focus. We did our best to make his shots tough and to take the ball out of his hands at times. And it worked for us.”
The Pacers (11-5) are off to their best start since 2003-04, when they won 14 of their first 16, finished the regular season 61-21 and came within two wins of getting to the NBA finals.
”We have a lot of guys that are experienced,” Granger said. ”David West is in his ninth year, Roy is in his fourth year now, I’m in my seventh and Collison is in his third. And we also have George Hill coming off the bench, and he’s in his fourth year coming from the Spurs. So we have a deep team and it’s tough to beat us.”
The Lakers, coming off road losses to Miami and Orlando, failed to reach 100 points for the 11th straight game – their longest streak since a 12-game stretch in 2003-04.
”We’re really not shooting the ball well. We have to start knocking down some of those shots,” Bryant said. ”The opposition is shooting the ball much better than we are, especially from 3. After the first quarter, we opened the floodgates and just let them score at will. Then you compound that with the fact that we’re having a tough time scoring.”
Bryant beat the third-quarter buzzer with a 16-footer from the right of the key to give the Lakers a 78-77 lead, and former Pacers forward Troy Murphy got his first points of the game on a 3 that made it 82-77.
West ended the first half with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the top of the key, capping a 15-6 run and slicing the Lakers’ 13-point lead to three at 52-49. He finished the half with 15 points, helping offset 17 by Bryant. Granger’s 3-pointer 1:37 into the third quarter gave Indiana a 55-54 lead, its first since Paul George’s game-opening dunk.
”We’ve got to give Indiana credit because they outworked us,” coach Mike Brown said. ”It’s too bad, because we came out and played great defense. But then the last three quarters, we didn’t play with a sense of urgency. We thought Indiana would fold to a certain degree, and we kind of went through the motions. This game was tough to swallow.”
Notes: The National Anthem was sung by Kareem Rush, whose seven-year NBA career included stints with the Lakers and Pacers. … Bryant is 180 points away from overtaking Shaquille O’Neal (28,596) for fifth place on the career scoring list. The two-time NBA scoring champ also is 20 field goals shy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Lakers career record of 9,935 and needs to make 11 more free throws to eclipse Jerry West’s Lakers career record of 7,160. … Pacers associate coach Brian Shaw, who won three NBA championship rings playing for the Lakers and two more as an assistant coach under Phil Jackson, made his first trip to Staples Center since leaving Los Angeles. He and most of the Lakers players – particularly Bryant – were hoping he’d be hired to replace Jackson as head coach instead of Brown, and Shaw was upset that he had to learn about Brown’s hiring from media reports instead of from general manager Mitch Kupchak. … The last time the Pacers faced the Lakers at Staples Center, they won 95-92 to snap a 14-game road losing streak against them – including three losses in the 2000 NBA finals. … The Lakers have a rematch with the Clippers on Wednesday night, trying to even the season series after a 102-94 loss Jan. 14. … Lakers F Josh McRoberts, who spent the previous three seasons with the Pacers, played 20 scoreless minutes and took two shots in his first game against them.