The Indiana Pacers haven't had many close contests this year; their 105-100 victory was just the third game this season played with five points. But as was the case in their previous two road wins in New Orleans and Brooklyn (as well as their seven point win against New York), they were able to come up with the big plays late to close out a tough game on the road. This afternoon it came down to offensive rebounding, where the Pacers came up with the rebound twice in the game's final 30 seconds to help ice the victory against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Indiana had 17 offensive rebounds on the night as part of 50 overall. Their ability to create second chances was key late when their shooting went away entirely. The Pacers didn't hit a field goal in the game's final four minutes, but key stops kept the Clippers from ever taking the lead despite only trailing by a point. The Pacers found themselves on the wrong side of a free throw disparity, but their rebounding turned into free throw opportunities, where they went 9-10 in the game's final 4:24 to close the game out.
Paul George led the Pacers with 27, including 18 in the first half, but appeared gassed as the second half wore on. There didn't seem to be any life in his shot. It eventually spread to the team for the final four minutes, but they were able to find success throughout the game, especially through David West, who appeared to take real joy in going right at Blake Griffin all game. West had a season high 24 points including 12 rebounds. While Griffin got his a few times, it was mostly West taking every small bit of trash talk from Griffin to heart. Griffin showed little to no resistance in the post against West, and it led to his best game of the year to date.
Lance Stephenson was nagged despite a solid statistical outing of seven points, 10 rebounds, and six assistswith shady defense against Jamal Crawford, who was a force in the second half, leading the Clippers in points with 20. He also had some questionable decision making, but that was largely a team effort as well, as the Pacers stumbled into 16 turnovers. The turnover number wasn't bad, but the 17 points off turnovers and the Clippers scoring 12 fast break points really helped keep the Clippers alive.
Indiana has had turnover woes this season, sure, but it was one of the first times this season they actually seemed to be reverting to the poor decision making and haphazard play that plagued them in the postseason last year. Part of this could be attributed to the early start and flight over, but the fatigue for the starters seemed apparent in the third quarter when the sloppy ball handling took hold.
It didn't help the bench's contributions were fairly minimal. While all five bench players scored, they only totaled 17 points, which against a high powered Clippers bench including Crawford and Darren Collison, resulted in the Clippers chipping away at double figure leads twice. It wasn't quite the concerning level of last year's bench as they didn't give up leads outright, but the lack of scoring options in the second unit today with Luis Scola and C.J. Watson struggling, really allowed the Clippers to stay within the game despite falling behind.
Roy Hibbert had 19 for the blue and gold on 8-16 shooting. He missed some easy looks, but made up for it with five offensive rebounds as part of his eight total. George Hill had 11 as the fourth Pacer in double figures, going a perfect 6-6 from the line, all in the game's final four and a half minutes. Hill gets plagued as a guy who's always a threat to leave points on the board late, but always seems to rebound from tough nights with solid ones.
So the Pacers win their seventh straight to move to 16-1 on the season while starting their road trip with a win. There's no doubt the Clippers pushed the Pacers as hard as they've seen all season, but despite murmurs of a weak schedule setting up Indiana's record heading into the game, they showed first hand their ability to make the most of what they have any given night to capitalize on a win against one of the best teams in the NBA. There's no rest for their grueling road trip, as the next stop is Portland to play the Trail Blazers tomorrow night for a late 10 p.m. Eastern tip. They'll actually beat the Blazers to Portland, who have a late tip against the Lakers tonight, also at the Staples Center.