Los Angeles (25-25) had won six of its last seven games before beginning this stretch of seven straight road contests against Eastern Conference opponents. The Clippers, though, have stumbled away from Los Angeles, going 2-3 on the trip with matchups at Indiana and Detroit remaining.
The Clippers lost their first seven road games of the season and are just 8-17 away from Staples Center. They hope that Friday’s 90-89 comeback win over Philadelphia can help them turn the corner.
“It builds confidence; that’s what we needed,” forward Elton Brand said. “It’s about winning ballgames and it’s tough to win on the road. We’ve had our problems on the road and to win one like this, coming from behind it gives us confidence and that’s what we need right now.”
The Clippers trailed by as many as 13 in the third quarter, but Sam Cassell sparked a second-half rally. Despite playing with the flu, Cassell came off the bench and scored 22 points to lead five Clippers in double figures.
Cassell had eight points in the fourth quarter, including a game-tying 3-pointer and two free throws with 14 seconds left that sealed the win. The victory snapped Los Angeles’ three-game losing streak.
“I just gave my team a lift,” Cassell said. “That’s all I’m supposed to do. It’s nothing spectacular. We needed it. I made some baskets and give some credit to my teammates. It shows our team character and chemistry. Guys stepped it up and that’s how we won the game.”
The Clippers may need a similar spark from Cassell on Sunday, as they’ll be facing an Indiana club that’s taken seven of the last nine meetings between the teams.
Indiana (26-24) had won five in a row at Conseco Fieldhouse going into a season-high six-game homestand, but the Pacers fell to 0-3 during the stretch with Friday’s 102-95 loss to Denver. The Pacers hadn’t lost three straight at home in more then two years.
“We’re just struggling right now,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ll have to stick with it, keep battling and keep working. When you go through these periods, it can seem like you’re light years away. When in reality, you’re closer than you think. You can never pencil in wins in this league. We’re a team that has to be firing on all cylinders or else you’re tempting fate.”
Mike Dunleavy scored a season-high 23 points for the Pacers, but Denver took 43 free throws to Indiana’s 13, making 32. Carlisle and Indiana point guard Darrell Armstrong were ejected in the second half for arguing foul calls.
Denver outscored Indiana 20-4 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“It gets tough when it seems like it’s really one-sided,” Indiana forward Jermaine O’Neal said. “We never get the benefit of the whistle. Everything that’s being called is always called against us.”
The Pacers will look to recover against the Clippers, who have one win in Indianapolis in their last 13 visits.
The Pacers swept the season series from Los Angeles last season. O’Neal averaged 15.5 points and 12.0 rebounds, while teammate Jamaal Tinsley averaged 16.0 points, 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in the series.
Brand averaged 25.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in the two losses.
The teams meet again March 3 at Staples Center.