The Indiana Pacers celebrated wildly when they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center last month.
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It was business as usual when the Lakers returned the favor in Indiana. Kobe Bryant scored 25 of his 31 points in the second half to help Los Angeles beat the Pacers 109-94 on Wednesday night.
The Pacers partied after Bryant missed two chances to force overtime in the closing seconds of Indiana’s 95-92 win on Nov. 28, and it didn’t sit well with the two-time defending NBA champions.
"They had a real issue about it," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I think the Pacers came back and kind of celebrated in the hallways at Staples, and they remembered that, and they came back with that, ‘Let’s get after them."’
The Pacers were trying to sweep the Lakers for the first time since 1992. Instead, they were dominated from the opening tip and never led.
"We played with more energy, and a more focused game, and with more of a sense of urgency," Bryant said.
Pau Gasol had 28 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, and got the best of his matchup with Roy Hibbert after going 5 for 15 with five turnovers and five fouls in the previous meeting.
"Just played more aggressive, more assertive," Gasol said. "Just tried to attack more and it made a difference."
Lamar Odom added 13 points and 17 rebounds for the Lakers.
Los Angeles shot 51 percent against the Pacers, who entered with the NBA’s No. 2 field-goal percentage defense. The Lakers outrebounded Indiana 51-29 to win for the sixth time in seven games.
Darren Collison scored 17 points and Brandon Rush added 16 for Indiana. The Pacers got off to a promising start this season, but have lost three straight.
"I’m not very happy with the way we competed, in all candor," Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. "You’ve got to bring a certain ethic to the game and frankly, we haven’t."
Gasol set the tone in this one. Los Angeles made seven of its first eight shots and ran out to a 15-4 lead. The Lakers extended that advantage to 27-10 before Bryant even attempted a shot. They shot 73.7 percent in their best field-goal shooting quarter of the season to lead 36-22 at the end of the period. Bryant, content to play decoy, had one field goal and three assists in the quarter while Gasol scored 14 points in the first 12 minutes.
The Lakers led 59-37 at halftime. They outrebounded the Pacers 27-10 in the first half and shot 61 percent. Bryant took just four shots in the first half, but had six assists without a turnover.
Bryant got rolling early in the third quarter, when he drained a 3-pointer from the right corner while fading out of bounds with Danny Granger in his face. Bryant made another 3 a few minutes later and held his arm in the air as the ball went through the net. He scored 17 points in the quarter.
"That’s the way that we like to see Kobe play a lot of games," Jackson said. "He really makes his presence felt, but everybody else is involved in the game because he’s making passes and plays and facilitating the offense. He’s going to find a point in the ballgame where he has his offense running for him, and he did that, and he had a great effort in the second half."
Rush hit back-to-back 3s to get Pacers fans excited late in the third, but Shannon Brown’s coast-to-coast drive and layup quieted the crowd and gave the Lakers an 87-69 lead at the end of the period.
Most of the sellout crowd stayed until the end, even though the home team trailed by double digits the entire fourth quarter. Bryant, ever the crowd pleaser, drained consecutive 3s midway through the fourth, and some fans even chanted "Kobe! Kobe!"
"They were clearly a superior group to our players tonight," O’Brien said. "They jumped on us and never really game us a chance to get back in the game. They were obviously going to bring it, and we didn’t match their intensity in the first half."
NOTES: Lakers F Ron Artest got a mixed reaction during pregame introductions. While playing for the Pacers, Artest was suspended for 73 games and the playoffs after fighting with Detroit Pistons fans in 2004. He then requested a trade the next season. … Indiana’s first offensive rebound came with 1:36 left in the first half. … Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens was in the crowd.