These two teams are going in opposite directions.
Though Pacers star forward Paul George struggled from the field, going just 4-of-10, he contributed in other ways by dishing out six assists and nabbing five rebounds while collecting two steals. Their team balance was apparent -- six players scored in double figures.
For the Pacers, a clear identity of who they are and knowledge of what they do well has carried them to a 35-9 record. They're a small-market team who grew organically into the mold of a championship-caliber squad behind the solid coaching of Frank Vogel and a defensive-minded approach.
The Lakers are the antithesis of most, if not all of these principles.
They have no direction, no identity and nothing to show for their high salary cap number except a host of aging, injured stars. They've built their team artificially by writing big checks and making trades with teams looking to save.
As far as the coach is concerned, head coach Mike D'Antoni wasn't given many resources to field a competitive team this season, but the product on the floor has been abysmal.
Fair or unfair, even in the stacked Western Conference the coaching has come into harsh criticism from the ever-demanding L.A. fan base. Meanwhile, in the Midwest, coach Vogel continues to draw league-wide adulation for the job he's done with his budding squad.
And if there's any insult to injury to be had, Brian Shaw, Vogel's ex-top assistant and former Lakers champion, is doing a fine job leading the Denver Nuggets a few short years after many thought he was the natural and correct successor to the great Zen Master Phil Jackson. (He was.)
Where it went wrong
The Lakers' organization made a mistake by prematurely firing Brown without a clear plan for the immediate future. Instead of bringing in a coach who could maintain the team's continuity, they went with the Showtime element to put bodies in the seats and the experiment failed miserably. The late great Dr. Jerry Buss was a tremendous and innovative owner, but his last move was a poor judgement call.
And Magic Johnson isn't happy again. Things are not good in Laker-land when the Magic Man himself isn't cracking an ear-to-ear grin.
"This is what happens when you make the wrong decisions, two coaching wrong decisions, giving Steve Nash that deal, it's backfired," Johnson said during a meeting at The Times between Dodgers officials and Times writers and editors. Johnson is a part owner of the Dodgers.
"The biggest problem they're going to have right now … you've got to get a guy like Jerry West to be the face of the team. ...
Johnson has been outwardly critical of Buss and the front office for the better part of two seasons, and it doesn't appear to be poised to get any better soon.
"You've got to have someone helping Jim. He's got to quit trying to prove a point to everybody that he can do it on his own, get his ego out of it, and just say, 'Let me get someone beside me to help achieve the goals I want.' "
Where's the fix going to come from?
It's hard to see things getting better any time soon. Carmelo Anthony is a potential free agent, but he's no savior for these woes. He'll be north of 30 by the time he'd join the Lake Show, and two aging volume shooters in the twilight of their careers isn't a recipe for championship basketball.
The Lakers are going to have to take a more methodical, calculated approach to turning things around. Earning a high draft pick in a rare year where they hold their own first-round selection is a good start. They'll have to continue to build organically after being left in shambles following a big gamble with their last major trade.
After the Dwight Howard debacle of last offseason, the Lakers were left reeling in terms of what to do next. They were counting on cap space and a crop of potential free agents to come to Los Angeles with wide eyes and the excitement of players past.
But these are not the Lakers of the gold standard. The brand took a hit when Howard opted to play elsewhere for less money. Other names had to take notice that it may not be the place to play any longer.
Also, this was supposed to be Bryant, Nash and Gasol's final chance to prove to the world that they were each still forces in the NBA. Injuries have sidelined Nash and Bryant, and Gasol has had to shoulder the load with very little help around him.
Meanwhile, Indiana is ripe with young talent and has the ability to compete with anyone. Southern California native Paul George is doing his best impersonation of his childhood idol Bryant, carrying his team on both ends of the floor. He's the elite player for the Pacers the Lakers don't have right now, and maybe won't have even when the Black Mamba returns.
It's an unenviable set of circumstances that will yield the Lakers very few apologists. Los Angeles has had over a half-century of greatness and winning ways, and it has the hardware to show for it.
Still, this outlook has to sting for the Lakers Nation. For the first time in recent memory, there's no clear road map for how to get back to prominence.
Catch up with Michael C. Jones on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.
Michael C. Jones is a Southern California-based journalist and was Yahoo's 2012 Contributor of the Year. He is the founding editor of Sports Out West and also contributes to SB Nation.
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