by greg beacham ap sports writer
Paul George missed 17 of his 21 shots, including everything he tried in the fourth quarter. The rest of the Indiana Pacers were similarly tired and erratic on the last stop on their five-game road trip.
It might have been a problem against an opponent other than the spiraling Los Angeles Lakers.
David West scored 19 points, Lance Stephenson had 15 points and 14 rebounds, and the Pacers wrapped up their lengthy trip with a 104-92 victory Tuesday night.
George Hill had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Pacers (35-9), who stayed atop the overall NBA standings despite losing twice on their West Coast trip. Los Angeles kept it close into the second half before the Pacers finished a comfortable win over the injury-riddled Lakers, who have lost five straight.
"We're all real tired, but you push through that when you want to be a good team," said Roy Hibbert, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds. "We've got to hold ourselves to a higher standard. There were some games we dropped that we should have won on this trip. We'll get better."
Despite struggling for long stretches on offense and making 15 of their 27 free throws, the Pacers bounced back from Saturday's loss at Denver, their second in three games.
The Pacers outrebounded the Lakers 63-50 and committed four turnovers while playing better defense than on earlier stops. Indiana's opponents had averaged 109.5 points per game on this trip until the Pacers met the Lakers, who failed to crack 100 points for the first time in nine games.
George, an All-Star selection, had his second straight rough game for Indiana, scoring 14 points on 4-for-21 shooting. The California native acknowledged having "a busy weekend" in Los Angeles, including an appearance on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live," but wouldn't blame his newfound celebrity status.
"We're pretty much dialed in," George said. "We've got to be able to accept nights where we're not going to play well and use those games to get better moving forward. I think we're moving steady."
Pau Gasol had 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who returned from a two-week road trip for their 17th loss in 20 games.
Jodie Meeks also scored 21 points, and Nick Young had 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting in the Lakers' fourth consecutive home loss to Indiana since 2010. Kendall Marshall had 11 points and 13 assists, but the Lakers' motley roster couldn't keep up with the smooth, experienced Pacers down the stretch.
"The Pacers became the Pacers," Los Angeles coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They're a very good basketball team. I thought we played as hard as we could play, but a couple of things went their way, and they separated themselves."
While dropping into 14th place in the Western Conference, the Lakers (16-30) also got yet another round of dismaying injury news during the game. Kobe Bryant has continued pain and swelling after breaking a bone in his left knee, and he won't be re-evaluated for three more weeks.
The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history has played in just six games this season, and the latest injury is expected to force him to miss the All-Star game next month. He has been out since Dec. 17.
"It's hard to hear that," Gasol said. "We know how much he loves the game, loves to play, and it's hard for our team to be without its best player. We've just got to continue to work and stick together."
Los Angeles also played without Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry, while Gasol and Meeks played through nagging injuries. Nash, who missed his 38th consecutive game, won't return until next week at the earliest.
Indiana led by five points late in the third quarter before making a 19-8 run, going up 93-77 on Stephenson's layup with 7:26 left.
The Lakers gave 18 minutes of playing time to Manny Harris, who was in the D-League the last time Los Angeles played a home game. Harris went scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting.
NOTES: Gasol had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in his fifth straight game. ... The Lakers, Clippers and Kings spent the last two weeks on the road while the Grammy Awards occupied Staples Center. The busy building hosts six events in the next five days. ... Reggie Miller watched his Pacers from a seat next to the Lakers' bench, wearing a UCLA cap. Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig, former USC WR Marqise Lee and Galaxy striker Robbie Keane also watched at courtside.