Pacers exhale after snapping eight-game losing streak

Come with me inside the Pacers locker room where after Monday night’s blasting of the Los Angeles Lakers, 110-91, the reactions were simple and appreciative.

“It always feels good to get a win,” said Rodney Stuckey, who flirted with his first triple-double (20/10/7). “Winning never gets old. We just needed one. We needed one to get the money off our back.”

“It’s good to get that win, it’s good to get that monkey off your back,” C.J. Miles said with ice bags wrapped around both of his knees, “but I think the biggest thing is to go out there and believe in what we do.”

“The losing streak is over,” said a relieved Donald Sloan, who scored all 17 of his points in the final stanza. He was smiling just like most in the locker room.”It seemed like we were a little bit more together tonight. Things are going well, so it’s easy to be together. But just to see everybody smiling, it’s different.”

How long?

He had to think. “Or … land … o,” he let out slowly, not confident with his answer.

Sloan was right. 98-83 back on Nov. 28. That was the last time they walked off the floor with a victory. This eight-game losing streak was the franchise’s longest in five years.

Even 55 was as cheerful as you’ll get from him at his locker room. “Just got to watch the film,” is likely what he would have said…

The Pacers began the game with the high motor coach Frank Vogel requested of them, and they sprinted in front an astonishing 26-4. I can’t remember a poorer start, at any level, than the Lakers had. They missed 17 of their first 19 shots. Bricky after brick. To be fair, they were concluding a three-game trip of their own and had won their previous three games.

A little letdown after last night’s win in Minnesota, where Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan and move into third place on the NBA’s scoring list, was to be expected.

[Solomon Hill appreciated challenge of going against Kobe]

At the end of the first 12 minutes, the Lakers managed just 15 points, the lowest first-quarter output all season but a Pacers opponent.

“We had great energy,” said Vogel. “We were the more energized team tonight. Our offense was clicking so they were taking the ball out of the basket each time.”

Six Pacers finished in double figures, led by Stuckey. The eight-year veteran has never recorded a triple-double in his professional career but he did chalk up his third double-double in four seasons. He said he had no idea how close he was — three assists short — until after the game.

“No, not at all. I don’t care about that kind of stuff,” he said, a very different reaction than the previous guy who once occupied that locker (Lance Stephenson). “It was just important for us to get a win tonight before we go on this West Coast trip. … It doesn’t bother me. I don’t really focus on that kind of stuff.”

“He was terrific. … His motor is as good as anybody in the game. He always plays extremely hard on both ends.”

The Pacers led the entire way, and by as many as 39 points. Bryant, in what may have been his last visit to Indianapolis, chucked up 26 shots, making eight, and he left with a game-high 21 points without playing a minute in the fourth quarter.

“I think we had tired legs,” Bryant said. “A lot of our shots were short. Getting ourselves into such a big deficit was difficult.”

For the Pacers, it means that can feel good about themselves, the habits that they work on in each practice, and the group that they have. And, George Hill may re-join the lineup as soon as this weekend.

“It’s a win, but now you want another,” Miles added. “It’s a taste-of-blood type of thing. You want to continue to play hard and do the things we did today and make it carry over going out to that West Coast, where we’re going to play some good teams and we’re going to try to come back with some wins. That’s the attitude we need to have now.”

[Kobe Bryant gives advice, support to Paul George after devastating injury]

To close the week, the Pacers visit Los Angeles (Clippers), B-Shaw in Denver, and conclude the trip Sunday in Minneapolis. At 8-17, the Pacers can’t feel great about where their at, but they did dispose of a dreadful Lakers team with Kobe and group of misfits to bounce back. If they could return from this three-game trip with two wins, it would be a success.

“I think guys were kind of losing track, losing [sight] of the bigger picture of what we wanted to do,” Solomon Hill said, standing with a navy striped sweater in his corner locker. “We wanted to get better, and I think defensively we really came out and had [forced] our presence.”

That they did, holding the Lakers to 33 percent shooting, limited Bryant to three free throw attempts (of course he made all three), and got a solid contribution all around.

“It’s good to feel that,” Vogel said.

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