Pacers look to 'stay sound' as they roll into LA
LOS ANGELES -- The Indiana Pacers roll into Staples Center seeking to continue their recent run in a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
The Pacers, who have won seven of their past eight contests, rallied from a 22-point deficit to defeat the host Sacramento Kings 106-100 on Wednesday night.
The win was the 500th of coach Nate McMillan's career and one of the few times the Pacers prevailed on the road. Indiana (22-19) is 6-14 away from its home floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"That's what we want to do," McMillan said of escaping against the Kings. "This is road tough."
"We just had to gut and grind," said Pacers star Paul George, who scored 17 of his team-high 24 points in the second half. "That's all it comes down to is staying sound -- staying sound and solid and one basket at a time. I think we did a great job of not looking to make big plays to get us back right away."
Indiana returned to its winning form after a tough stretch in December. The Pacers are 6-1 this month after finishing December with a 7-8 mark. A 111-101 decision on Dec. 30 over the Chicago Bulls jump-started the Pacers' solid performances.
The Pacers' lone loss this month was a 140-112 blowout against the Denver Nuggets in London on Jan. 12. Since then, Indiana claimed its past two contests.
Indiana's offense is improved in January, averaging 114 points per contest. The play of point guard Jeff Teague has been one of the reasons. In the win over Sacramento, Teague paired 22 points with 11 assists and seven rebounds.
It was Teague's ninth double-double this season -- that ranks fourth in the NBA among point guards.
Double-doubles have been a common theme for Lakers forward Julius Randle, but Los Angeles got a double-double Tuesday from an unlikely source, little-used rookie center Ivica Zubac, who tallied 11 points and 13 boards in a 127-121 loss to Denver.
Zubac, the 32nd pick of the 2016 draft, has spent much of the season playing with the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the NBA Development League.
"I thought (Zubac) was really good (Tuesday)," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "(The Nuggets) were getting everything they wanted for most of the game, and when he got in there he started changing some shots, he got his deflections, had a beautiful pass to Nick (Young) in the corner that would've cut it to one, which is the way we want to play, and the way we played earlier in the year.
"I thought he was really good, but I'm not going to say he turned a corner. I'm just going to say he was really good tonight."
Unfortunately, the Lakers (15-31) haven't been very good. They have dropped five in a row and 21 of their past 26 contests after a 10-10 start.
The Pacers, who have won four consecutive games against the Lakers, took the initial meeting 115-108 in Indiana on Nov. 2. At Staples, the Pacers own a three-game winning streak in the series.