LOS ANGELES(AP) — Kobe Bryant is continuing to encourage his teammates as their perimeter shooting problems persist.
The Indiana Pacers have no such worries about their 3-point attack.
The Pacers ended a lengthy road losing streak against the Lakers last season, and they enter Sunday night’s matchup with the better record as they seek a winning three-game trip.
Bryant is in his usual place among the NBA’s elite with his 30.4 scoring average, but hasn’t been getting adequate help. The Lakers (10-7) are one of the league’s worst 3-point shooting teams at 25.7 percent.
Los Angeles made 6 of 20 3s in each of its two road losses this week, falling 98-87 at Miami on Thursday and 92-80 the next night in Orlando.
“I tell them (teammates) that they have to keep shooting them,” Bryant said. “They are much better shooters than the statistics are showing right now. We just have to keep shooting them.”
Indiana (10-4) is one of the NBA’s better 3-point shooting teams at 38.2 percent. The Pacers have split their first two on this trip after making 8 of 16 from beyond the arc in Friday’s 94-91 win at Golden State.
Starters Paul George and Darren Collison are southern California natives who are among the NBA leaders, with George shooting 48.9 percent on 3s and Collison 48.1.
The Pacers had dropped 14 straight on the road to the Lakers – including three defeats in the 2000 NBA finals – before a 95-92 victory Nov. 28, 2010. Roy Hibbert had 24 points and 12 boards while Danny Granger added 18 points as Indiana overcame Bryant’s 41 points.
Bryant scored 31 and Pau Gasol added 28 as Los Angeles won the rematch, 109-94 at Indiana on Dec. 15, 2010.
The Pacers have two new starters from those games in George and David West. They faced one of the departed starters in Brandon Rush on Friday and will face the other, Josh McRoberts, on Sunday.
McRoberts signed with the Lakers as a free agent after developing into a starter in 2010-11 – his third season with the Pacers. He has been a non-factor of late as a Los Angeles reserve.
While the Pacers lost one Indiana native in McRoberts, they added another in George Hill. The former Spurs guard came up big Friday when he stole the ball from Monta Ellis and converted a three-point play with 1.8 seconds remaining.
“Obviously the play of the game was George Hill,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel, an advance scout for the Lakers in 2005-06.
Granger scored a season-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He shot 34.1 percent and averaged 13.7 points over his previous three games.
“We want him to be assertive,” Vogel said. “He’s an All-Star. We want to go to him.”
The Lakers are trying to stay patient with their struggling shooters. Derek Fisher is shooting 24.1 percent on 3s and Metta World Peace is at 12.1 (4 of 33).
Los Angeles shot a season-low 38.2 percent overall for the second time in three games Friday.
“We got a lot of good looks … a lot of them,” Bryant said. “We just have to keep hitting the open man and those shots will fall.”
Updated January 21, 2012