Pacers close out western trip against Lakers

( - The Indiana Pacers will try to escape their western road trip with a winning record Tuesday night as they visit the Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Pacers, still the owners of the NBA's best mark and the only team in the league with single-digit losses, are 2-2 on their sojourn. They bested the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, but fell to the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.

The Denver loss was most recent, a 109-96 setback on Saturday night.

Down 19 at the half, the Pacers scored the first 11 points before Denver went on a run. Indiana cut it to six early in the fourth, but the Nuggets did enough to prevail.

Lance Stephenson led the way with 23 points and 10 rebounds, followed by 18 points and 11 boards from All-Star Paul George. David West added 16 and George Hill finished with 10.

Both Roy Hibbert and backup center Ian Mahinmi fouled out as the Pacers racked up 27 fouls. Couple that number with 17 turnovers and there's the recipe for beating Indiana.

"As is the case with most of our losses, we fouled too much with 27 fouls and we turned the ball over too much with 17 turnovers," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "Those two things have led to most of our losses."

The Lakers return home after a long annual road trip to accommodate the Grammys being held at the Staples Center. This season, LA went 2-5 on the odyssey with four of the five losses coming in a row at the end of the trip.

The Lakers last loss came in Madison Square Garden, a 110-103 defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks.

Jodie Meeks went 6-of-8 from 3-point range to pace the Lakers with 24 points, while Pau Gasol had 20 along with 13 rebounds. Manny Harris ended with 18 points for Los Angeles.

"Again, we just find a way to lose," Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni remarked. "It just oozes away from us."

With the Lakers back home, there were several updates on the injury front.

The biggest story was a non-story as Kobe Bryant won't be evaluated until Tuesday.

Steve Nash was expected to go through practice on Monday, but "tweaked his back" according to team spokesman John Black, who stated it was unrelated to the nerve root irritation injury that has sidelined Nash for months.

Steve Blake (elbow) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring) have not been cleared to practice. Xavier Henry is at least two weeks away from a return and Meeks and Gasol were held out of practice on Monday, but both are expected to play on Tuesday.

"You try to stay positive," D'Antoni said after practice on Monday. "Guys are getting a little bit better. We have to stay competitive. It would be really good to get these guys back."

The two teams split last season's matchups, but Indiana has won three straight as the visitor in this series.