Defense carries Los Angeles Clippers past Indiana Pacers

By Jeff Washburn, The Sports Xchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- A case could be made that in Blake Griffin's absence, the Los Angeles Clippers turned to 3-point shooting to defeat the Indiana Pacers 91-89 Tuesday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

That would be a strong case, considering guards Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Wesley Johnson combined to make 13 of 24 attempts (54.2 percent) from beyond the arc on a night when the Clippers finished 15 of 37 from 3-point range.


But a stronger case could be made that the Clippers defense produced this victory when Indiana missed 14 consecutive shots in 8:26 of game time to finish the third quarter and begin the fourth, a stretch during which Los Angeles outscored the Pacers, 13-0.


"We had taken a step back as a team defensively, so tonight, it was good to see on that end of the court," Redick said. "Any time you face adversity -- whether it's wins and losses or guys getting hurt -- (defense) can galvanize you and bring you together."

Indiana made only 15 of 43 second-half shots (34.9 percent).

"Their bench came in and turned us over, and the game got away from us," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of the Clippers defense at the end of the third quarter and to begin the fourth quarter. "We had good looks in that stretch when we missed 14 in a row, but they brought pressure and disrupted our rhythm."

Paul scored 26 points, including a clutch jumper with 33.7 seconds remaining, and Redick added 19 while the Pacers were only five of 16 from beyond the arc. Johnson came off the bench to score 15 for the Clippers (29-16) on 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.

"Our defense tonight ... we went with a lineup with three point guards on the floor at times, and that defense wanted to win the game," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who lost Griffin for an estimated 4-to-6 weeks when the team's leading scorer broke his hand in an altercation with a team assistant equipment manager.


"I think all the stuff in the last 48 hours, you always say it's the game that brings your team back. You could kind of feel that tonight. That was a good win for our team."

Forward Paul George had 31 for the Pacers, who are 3-17 when trailing after three quarters.

"In the third and fourth quarters, we had a lot of plays when we had terrible spacing," said George, who added 11 rebounds and three assists. "We just did a terrible job in that stretch. We did an OK job defensively -- better than in our recent games -- so to still lose this game sucks. It was just poor execution on our part."

Guard George Hill's 3-pointer with 1:43 remaining cut the Clippers' lead to 88-86, but a free throw from guard Jamal Crawford and the Paul jumper created a 91-86 lead.

George made a 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining, but the Pacers could not take advantage of a final opportunity, throwing the ball away with less than a second to play.

"Indiana wasn't going to feel sorry for us," Paul said of playing without Griffin again. "We've got to go out there and compete. Different guys have to step up. At one point tonight, I think we had four guards on the floor. You just have to figure it out. I expected to win."


Forward Myles Turner added 16 points, George Hill had 15 and center Ian Mahinmi added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana, which lost for the seventh time in nine games.

A George 3-pointer with 5:10 remaining pulled the Pacers within 82-79, but Paul answered with a layup and a 3-pointer for an 87-81 Los Angeles lead with 3:07 left.

A 7-0 Clippers run to begin the fourth quarter created a 81-72 lead and prompted an Indiana timeout. The Pacers (23-22) did not score in the period's first 5:33.

Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 6-0 run, including a Redick 3-pointer, to seize a 74-72 lead through 36 minutes. The Clippers outscored the Pacers 28-21 in the third period.

The Pacers scored the first half's final five points to grab a 51-46 lead through 24 minutes, getting 16 points off the bench from Turner on 7-of-7 field-goal shooting along with 14 points from George.

The Clippers got 13 first-half points from Redick and nine off the bench from Johnson, who made three 3-pointers before intermission.

NOTES: Clippers F Blake Griffin, already sidelined by a partially torn left quad tendon, will be out an additional four to six weeks after the organization confirmed Tuesday that he broke a bone in his right hand in a fight with a team assistant equipment manager in a Toronto restaurant. ... The Pacers were without G Rodney Stuckey (right foot bone bruise, sprain). ... Indiana G George Hill returned to the starting lineup after missing two games because of the birth of his child. He played Saturday at Sacramento but did not start. ... The Pacers started their big lineup against the Clippers, going with 6-foot-9 Lavoy Allen at power forward in place of the 6-6 C.J. Miles.


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