The intensity was there, Patrick Beverley pressuring the ball, Anthony Davis flying at the rim, LeBron James pushing the ball down the court. The Lakers looked focused and forceful.
They looked dangerous, eventually.
They were late. But they still got there.
The Lakers stopped Buddy Hield on a baseline trap in the final seconds Thursday, his shot rimming out as Anthony Davis grabbed the rebound to earn the team a 112-111 win.
The Lakers didn’t lead until a LeBron James three in the fourth quarter.
When will LeBron James become NBA’s all-time leading scorer?
A look at LeBron James’ pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring record.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar points: 38,387
LeBron James points: 38,325
Points from record: 63 points
Projected games until record: 3
Projected record date: Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Davis, who was not selected as a reserve for the All-Star Game, finished with 31 points and 14 rebounds, including great late-game defense. James had 26 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Three other Lakers were in double figures.
Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton returned to the court for the first time since Jan. 11 to score 26 for the Pacers, but he was quiet down the stretch as he was hounded by Beverley.
A week from the NBA’s trade deadline, the game against the Pacers was a reminder of a version of this year’s Lakers roster that never existed.
Prior to the start of the season, the Lakers and the Pacers engaged in serious discussions about a potential Russell Westbrook trade that would’ve sent the former MVP and first-round picks to Indiana for center Myles Turner and guard Hield.
Four months later, the market for Westbrook has largely been unchanged, according to league sources from rival teams. The sense is any Westbrook trade would likely still require the Lakers to include a first-round pick to offset a team paying the remainder of Westbrook’s $47 million salary.
Rival teams expect the Lakers, should they make a deal, to potentially use Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV as a way to build enough salary to get a meaningful return back.
The questions, though, will be whether the Lakers and their limited draft assets can bring in clear upgrades to the talent already on the roster.
Thursday, Beverley’s defensive impact was a key reason for the win.
The Lakers, trade or not, should be adding talent any day now, with coach Darvin Ham saying Austin Reaves could still return on the team’s current road trip, which ends Saturday in New Orleans.
Reaves, who has been part of closing lineups for the Lakers throughout the season, has been out since Jan. 6 with a hamstring injury.