The seeds of the Indiana Pacers' late-game 109-106 win over the Los Angeles Clippers were sown throughout the night, beginning with a 10-0 run and ending on eight game sealing free throws to complete the team's 4-0 West coast road trip while moving them to .500 on the road. It was a tale of two units for Los Angeles, who slumbered to a 24-point deficit with their starters and surged to within a point thanks to their bench.
But it was everything in between, late quarter heroics from LA, an unfortunate offensive basket interference by Lance Stephenson as the half wound to a close, to Roy Hibbert fouling out despite a perfect first half and the penultimate Pacers field goal that made the game what it ended up being. Jamal Crawford led a Clippers bench that scored 60 points on the night, nearly tying it up on Lamar Odom's last second three point attempt. Crawford had 25 and was a nightmare for a Pacers team that needed every ounce of their 24-point third quarter lead to hold him off.
The Pacers got there behind Roy Hibbert, who was a perfect 8-8 from the floor in the first half as part of a 26 point effort before late fouls finished his night after a clutch fourth quarter basket that put Indiana back up six. It's no small wonder the transformation Hibbert has made since the All-Star break, flipping in shots from wherever he was at, doing more than just defending (while still defending at a league best level), and not only earning his contract, but possibly exceeding it (but of course, that deserves a brake pump or two). The Pacers improve to 23-6 when Hibbert scores over 12, a somewhat startling stat when looking at just how important his offense has been this season.
And speaking of offense, the Pacers not only swept their four game road trip, but did so scoring over 100 in every game, showing versatility in adjusting to a faster Western pace in a season high five games over 100. The Pacers offense was clicking throughout the night, not even Los Angeles's zone defense could bring them more than tenth of a point below 55% on the night. Hibbert led the charge on an 11-14 night, as six Pacers shot 50% or better.
The one starter who didn't, Paul George, still had a tremendous night, scoring 23 and dishing out 10 assists, getting to the free throw line nine times on the night, converting on seven (his two misses came on a rare 0-2 trip). Indiana's free throw shooting was very nearly the goat to what could've been a massive collapse, with the Pacers having a woeful 3-10 stretch in the second half that gave the Clippers life with every miss.
The misses certainly helped the Clippers in coming out on top in the rebounding battle, finishing with 14 offensive boards, leading to 24 second chance points. The second chance points were a big proponent of LA's success on a night they dominated the paint, 52-36. Indiana's extra points from three point line, hitting 10, proved to be a little more advantageous, as did the ball movement, assisting on 29 of 39 field goals.
While Indiana's bench was out gunned 60-18, the bench did a solid job, at least early, of not getting bowled over, as D.J. Augustin came up big shooting, finishing with 10. While Augustin had trouble doing much else, his shooting, two Orlando Johnson threes, and two ice cold Tyler Hansbrough freee throws provided just enough for the starters, who all scored in double figures.
Lance Stephenson had a big game of 13 points on 5-9 shooting, continuing to frustrate opposing players while David West and George Hill each played great supporting games. Hill did a solid job limiting the effectiveness of Chris Paul, who had just 10 on 2-12 shooting while West made plays all night long, forcing Blake Griffin to earn each of his 17 points on the night.
The Pacers defense, while allowing 106 on the bench led surge, went perfect in keeping the Clippers from unleashing Lob City at home, taking away a key element of their identity. With it went the starters as a whole, helping Indiana to weather the Clippers bench. Tonight's win was a near mirror of Indiana's 17-point comeback against the Clippers in Indianapolis, and it offered up the same outcome. Roy Hibbert ended up being a huge factor in the win, as too did the Pacers' ability to clean up in other areas that allowed the Clippers to win on Indiana's home floor.
So enjoy this win and enjoy the 4-0 West coast swing. The Pacers won't take the floor again until Friday night when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder. Indiana is riding a five game winning streak, the win moving the Pacers above the streaking New York Knicks for second in the East at least for a night. Indiana's magic number to clinch the Central Division is two, a feat they could have clinched by the time they tip on Friday with two Bulls losses.
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