Continuing their return to form, the Indiana Pacers again left no doubt in a home game against a Los Angeles-based opponent, defeating the LA Clippers in blowout fashion. The Clippers entered this game having been one of the most active teams in the NBA Trade Deadline, shifting their focus towards the future with three separate trades and as many players waived.
All this shuffling effectively made Los Angeles a skeleton crew against the Pacers, limiting them to 10 players. Indiana did their best to take advantage of LA’s roster transition, shooting well to start, but were forced to contend with a perfect start from the Clippers, who hit their first 11 shots, eventually resulting in a 36-31 Pacers lead after one.
Neither team let their foot off the gas offensively halfway through the second, but it wasn’t as if defense was nonexistent. Indiana got a lot of their success off of forcing turnovers while the Clippers penetrated well, setting up favorable looks that quite simply went in at very turn.
The game finally shifted fully in Indiana’s direction when the Pacers capitalized off of two straight turnovers, pushing a one point lead to eight, quickly making it 16 points on an 18-2 run. Bojan Bogdanovic fueled the run, hitting back to back threes, scoring eight, setting up Indiana well heading into the second half with 71 points on 66% shooting in the first.
Once there, Indiana’s defense began to finally force stops, keeping Los Angeles from making a dent on the lead despite struggling themselves to score points. Both teams had just six points halfway through the third, but it would be Indiana that would break out of it first, again getting started from Bogdanovic, who had five in an 8-2 run.
There was never any doubt from that point that the Pacers would come away with the win. The Clippers began to level out while Indiana’s defense continued to excel. In the third quarter alone, Indiana had seven steals, allowing them to get out in transition, outscoring LA 24-5 in fast break points for the game. They had 34 points in total off of turnovers, tying a season high in steals with 15.
Bogdnaovic had three of those steals in the third quarter, but was still just third on the team in forcing turnovers. Thaddeus Young led the way with five, pairing well with his 14 points while Myles Turner had four. They both shot exceptionally well, combining 13-17 for the night, Turner going 7-8 for 17 points, 3-3 from deep.
Indiana not only tied their season high in steals, they recorded a season high in blocks with 12 total. Not surprisingly, Turner led the way with six. Four came in the latter stages of the second quarter as Indiana pushed their lead into double figures and then towards the 20-point threshold. Indiana scored seven off of those blocks in the second.
Bogdanovic had five of those points, finishing the night with a game high 29 on 12-19 shooting. The assertiveness Bogdanovic has shown to take up the scoring load has been a big relief in how the Pacers have been able to play offensively, especially early. He’s averaged 24.5 points per game during this winning streak, scoring 6.8 in the first quarter, all but two of his 27 first quarter points coming in the first five minutes.
Off the bench, Domantas Sabonis continues to trend in a positive direction, shooting 4-6 for eight points and seven rebounds. Cory Joseph led the way for the second unit with a 13 point, 10 rebound double double, also coming up with six assists. Joseph has had his floater going and it was a big weight off the second unit’s shoulders tonight as Edmond Sumner and Aaron Holiday both fell back down to earth shooting wise after big games against the Lakers, combining for 2-14 shooting.
Indiana moves back to 17 games above .500 with the win, digging out of their four game skid with a four game winning streak. More importantly, these last two games in particular have just been a lot of fun. It’s always exciting to beat LeBron James, but there was an extra wrinkle tonight as the game was twice delayed thanks to a loose bat.
The Coyote made headlines in San Antonio recently when he caught a bat himself, but things weren’t as smooth for Boomer, who sans a net lunged fruitlessly towards the Chiroptera, The Coyote offering to fly in in exchange for first class tickets. Perhaps due to not being as well equipped for such oddities as San Antonio, the bat escaped, only to return later, eluding roundhouse kicks from both Bogdanovic and Turner.
The way the bat became a storyline within the game for the Pacers goes to show just how far they’ve come in the past week towards becoming themselves again. Bogdanovic called it one of the best parts of the game, high praise on a night when Indiana on the court was so effective. Mark Boyle’s call of the bat chase also closed in on “Ding dong, the witch is dead!’ territory.
The Pacers will continue their home stand on Saturday, hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers for the final time this season. They also move back into the third spot with a win tonight at 36-19.