Reporting from Indianapolis
Bad idea to party outside the Lakers' locker room.
Sure, the Indiana Pacers had never beaten the Lakers in 14 previous tries at Staples Center, but when it happened last month they could be heard celebrating a little too loudly for the Lakers' taste.
It's not like the Pacers are the Boston Celtics or San Antonio Spurs, someone the Lakers really get up to play, but there was added incentive Wednesday when the Lakers saw them again.
The final score said it all: Lakers 109, Pacers 94.
"They had a real issue about it," Coach Phil Jackson said of the Lakers. "I think the Pacers came back and kind of celebrated in the hallways in Staples and these guys remember that. They came back with that, 'Let's get after them.' "
They certainly did, taking a 29-10 lead and cruising from there.
Kobe Bryant was highly efficient, scoring 31 points on 11-for-18 shooting and Pau Gasol was equally sharp, scoring 28 points on 10-for-17 accuracy.
Gasol was thoroughly outplayed by Indiana center Roy Hibbert when the Pacers beat the Lakers on Nov. 28, 95-92, but Gasol was the easy winner in the rematch at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Lamar Odom continued his steady play — 13 points on five-for-nine shooting and 17 rebounds — and, whoa, even Ron Artest got into the mix, scoring 13 points on six-for-eight shooting.
Andrew Bynum didn't do much, totaling three points and five rebounds in almost 18 minutes, but he wasn't needed on a night the Lakers led by as many as 26.
Is there such thing as retribution for a regular-season loss? Apparently yes.
"Nothing against those guys, but we felt like we should have played better" last month, Odom said.
It started with Bryant. He was in pass-first mode in the first half as the Lakers took a 59-37 lead to the locker room and shouldered the scoring burden in the second half, including a 17-point outburst in the third quarter.
"That's the way we like to see Kobe play a lot of games," Jackson said.
Said Bryant: "The defense was collapsing on me in the first half, so I was a facilitator. In the second half, things started to open up a little bit and I was able to get some shots."
It was somewhat surprising to see Bryant, Artest and Gasol reenter the game with the Lakers up 19 midway through the fourth quarter, but Bryant responded by drilling two three-pointers.
"I thought it was a good time for Kobe to come back and stabilize the game," Jackson said.
In a way, the Lakers (19-7) did the celebrating after this one, not the Pacers (11-13).
"We're going to have some burgers and we're going to have some ice cream," Artest said, mentioning a fast-food joint a few blocks from the arena.
He has been the sundae on top of the Lakers' two-game push past 100 points, scoring in double figures in consecutive games for the first time in more than a month. His shooting slump had been weighing on him, despite his continual protests that all he cared about was his defense.
"Sometimes I should go to the NBDL," Artest said, referring to the NBA's Development League. "How I've been playing, I'd probably go to triple A for baseball. If I play as bad as I'd been playing again, I'm going to deliver garbage in L.A. No, no. What would I do? Clean up the streets maybe."
When told that players in only their first two NBA seasons can be sent down to the Development League, Artest lit up.
"I can't go to the NBDL?" he said excitedly.
Yes, Ron. You're fine.
So were the Lakers on Wednesday.