A determined Indiana fightback and last-minute heroics by Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis led the Pacers to a dramatic 105-102 upset of the NBA-best Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.
LeBron James produced 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who played without injured star forward Anthony Davis and saw their road win streak snapped at 14 games, two shy of the NBA record.
Pacers forward Sabonis, son of Lithuanian legend Arvydas Sabonis, scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Brodgon added 14 points and six assists and sank a reverse layup to put Indiana ahead to stay with 36 seconds remaining.
“Definitely a big win for us,” Brogdon said. “We really wanted to send a message to the elite teams in the league and get some respect. We’ve had some big wins but this is the biggest one.”
The Lakers (24-4) fell level with Milwaukee for the NBA’s best record just two days before they visit the Eastern Conference leaders in a potential NBA Finals showdown.
“The difference between winning and losing was made shots versus missed shots,” James said. “Sometimes the ball happens that way.”
The Lakers hit 43-of-91 shots (47.3%) from the floor while Indiana made 41-of-85 (48.2%).
Davis – the Lakers’ leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots – was absent due to a right ankle sprain suffered in a Sunday victory over Atlanta. Dwight Howard had 20 points on 10-of-10 shooting for the Lakers.
“Our guys competed their tails off,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I’m very proud of them.”
LA, which led by as many as 10 points, was ahead only 52-50 at half-time with James hitting 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the first half.
After Brogdon’s layup gave Indiana a 104-102 lead, James missed a 3-pointer and a video reversal on an out-of-bounds call gave the Pacers the ball. Sabonis made a free throw but missed the second to give the Lakers a final chance but Rajon Rondo missed a last 3-point shot and LA’s seven-game overall win streak was over.
“We just had to execute down the stretch, get some stops and make good shots,” Sabonis said. “We played a whole 48 minutes. We got the stops out there. That was key for us.”
The Pacers improved to 19-9 overall and 12-3 at home with their 12th overall win in 15 games.
Ayton returns for Suns
Paul George scored 24 points and Kawhi Leonard added 20 to spark the Los Angeles Clippers over the visiting Phoenix Suns 120-99.
Bahamian 21-year-old center Deandre Ayton, the 2018 NBA Draft top pick, returned to the Suns after a 25-game suspension for testing positive for a banned diuretic following the season opener.
Ayton scored 18 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the floor and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
“It was the biggest mistake in my life, an unintentional mistake,” he said of his doping ban. “I did not know what I put in my body. I was guilty of it. [I’m] closing the circle much tighter and cooking my own food.
“I have an organisation that loves me. They helped me a lot on this journey so I could come back and play.”
Spencer Dinwiddie scored six of his game-high 31 points in overtime to lead the Brooklyn Nets past host New Orleans 108-101.
Croatian forward Bojan Bogdanovic and Donovan Mitchell each scored 30 points while Frenchman Rudy Gobert grabbed 19 rebounds to spark the Utah Jazz over visiting Orlando 109-102.
New York’s RJ Barrett scored 27 points to lead the New York Knicks over visiting Atlanta 143-120 while Charlotte reserve guard Malik Monk had 23 points and 10 rebounds to power the Hornets over visiting Sacramento 110-102.