Despite a double figure advantage heading into the fourth quarter, the Los Angeles Clippers felt as if they were breathing right down the Indiana Pacers' necks. Indiana, already short David West due to a justified ejection after hitting Blake Griffin in the head just after the end of the first half, had built up a 20-point third quarter lead, hitting just one field goal the final 8:59 of the quarter, allowing the Clippers to cut the lead in half heading into the fourth.
Indiana was able to build a double digit lead thanks to a 15-0 run in the first quarter in a stretch the Clippers missed 13 straight shots. Paul George hit a buzzer beating three to put Indiana up 28-18 after one, the closest the game had been until Los Angeles trimmed the game to 10 heading into the fourth. Despite a three pointer by George, the Clippers were able to trim the lead to nine at 81-72 after a Jamal Crawford jumper sunk in.
Lance Stephenson responded with the next four to push the lead to 13 and out of a Clippers timeout, George and Danny Granger finished off a 10-0 run that put the game on ice, but not before George pushed the lead to 22 with a steal and one of the league's best dunks of the year. It was a great response by the Pacers, who thanks to foul trouble and some life from Los Angeles was in a do or die situation with their lead slipping away.
They were carried in the fourth by George, Stephenson, and Granger, who tallied the first 23 of Indiana's points in the quarter. The discussion heading into the second half revolved around how the Pacers were going to defend Griffin, who was suddenly going to be a lot freer without having to worry about West. Luis Scola and Roy Hibbert did their best, but it was Granger who really took to the challenge and helped limit what Griffin was able to do, poking away a couple of post up opportunities.
Granger had 12 points to lead the Pacers off the bench. He was just 4-13, but was active and involved in his 27 minutes, helping Indiana down the stretch with seven fourth quarter points. It was an unfortunate development due to West's ill-tempered mistake at the half. Griffin, who stole an inbound pass missed a layup to end the half, but West, trying to grab the ball from Griffin, got an arm to the head of Griffin, resulting in a near-immediate ejection. It was unnecessary, but the team was able to use their 16-point halftime lead to their advantage in the second half despite West's actions.
George led the way for the Pacers with 36 points, scoring 10 in the final period, including a three pointer and the dunk to put the game on ice. George was 12-17 from the field and 5-6 from three point range. If George hasn't worked through his slump, he's doing a good job convincing people he has. George looked fluid and in control of his shot all night, and it paid off along with three steals and six rebounds on the night.
Stephenson had a 22 point, 12 rebound double double (also totaling seven assists), and it was his rebounding that really helped Indiana. Five of his 12 boards were on the offensive glass, on a night the Pacers still won the rebounding battle by nine despite the absence of West in the second half. Roy Hibbert had five offensive rebounds as well as he grabbed 11 on the night, but his 2-11 shooting was more of an eyesore despite a solid defensive outing that included five first quarter blocks to set the pace early. C.J. Watson played exceptionally well for 11 points on 5-8 shooting.
The Pacers shot well in the first half, but dipped to 45.8% on the night, more than enough as they held Los Angeles under 40%. Indiana had 12 turnovers on the night that led to 15 Clipper points, but managed to score 19 off of 15 LA miscues. The Pacers also controlled fast break points, outscoring the Clippers 18-6. The win pushes the Pacers to 32-7 on the year and 21-1 at home. The win clinches the Pacers their 25th consecutive winning season at home, which according to Mark Boyle, is the fourth best all-time.
Indiana will take a four game winning streak out west as they begin a five game road trip Monday night against the Golden State Warriors. Despite the ejection, that's likely not the end of David West's troubles, creating a potentially difficult situation based on his availability for the tip on Monday. It will be a 10:30 ET tip, so get a nap in or set the DVR if you can't stay up that late.