LOS ANGELES -- For the surging Indiana Pacers, the five-game road trip they started Sunday in Los Angeles offered an intriguing early-season litmus test.
They still have four stops to go, but if their 105-100 win over the Clippers is any indication they are well on their way to acing the test.
That remains to be seen, but this much we do know: The team with the best record in the NBA stormed into Staples Center and beat one of the top teams in the Western Conference -- albeit an injured one -- with a balanced offensive attack and a defense just smothering enough to hold off the Clippers over the final two minutes.
In other words, they utilized the two components they've used to break out to the best start in franchise history.
Paul George continued his torrid start with 27 points, six rebounds and five assists. David West added 24 points and 12 rebounds and Roy Hibbert had 19 points for the Pacers, who improved to 7-1 on the road.
The Clippers (12-6) lost for only the second time at home this season. Their downfall was a slow shooting afternoon in which they sank just 39 of 90 shots while dealing with a Pacers defense that's allowed 100 points or more just twice this season.
Clippers guard Chris Paul, playing for the first time since suffering a right hamstring strain last Wednesday against the New York Knicks, had 17 points and 10 assists, and Blake Griffin added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
But the Clippers, who played without starting guard J.J Redick, who is out for six weeks with a hand fracture, could not successfully counter the Pacers' stifling defense long enough to completely overcome the 13-point lead Indiana built in the third quarter.
The Clippers tied it at 94-94 with 4:47 to play, but George answered with a three-point play to make it 97-94. George Hill was then fouled attempting a 3-pointer, resulting in three made free throws and a 100-96 Pacers lead with 3:04 remaining.
A follow up dunk by DeAndre Jordan cut the lead to 100-98, but Clippers guard Darren Collison inadvertently stepped out of bound on the baseline with the Clippers in position to tie it. Paul missed an open jumper, but Hibbert hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back to 102-98 with 1:14 remaining.
Another dunk by Jordan made it 102-100 but with 30 seconds remaining a pull-up jumper by Paul rimmed out and Lance Stephenson and George Hill sank three free throws to put it away.
NOTES The Clippers suffered a significant blow when guard J.J. Redick suffered a fracture in the small bone (pisiform) of his right hand and a tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the second quarter of the Clippers 104-98 win over Sacramento on Friday. Redick is expected to miss approximately 6-8 weeks, and will be re-evaluated on Monday by hand specialist Dr. Steve Shin to determine further course of treatment. "It takes out something that's been huge for us offensively. J.J.'s movement is an offense in itself and we are setting up a lot of offense off his movement to get something else. He's one of those guys that when he goes out it changes a lot of what we do."...Clippers guard Chris Paul was back in the lineup after missing Friday's game at Sacramento with a right hamstring strain...How much does Indiana care about it's top-ranked defense? A note on its locker room chalk board read: "6-1 on the road 'cause defense travels."