NBA-leading Pacers top Clippers in trip opener
LOS ANGELES -- For the surging Indiana Pacers, the five-game road trip they started Sunday offers an intriguing early-season challenge.
The Pacers still have four stops to go, but if their 105-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers is any indication they, are well on their way to acing the test.
The best team in the NBA record-wise 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.
Those are the same two components the Pacers used to break out to the best start in franchise history.
Forward Paul George continued his torrid start with 27 points, six rebounds and five assists for Indiana (16-1). Forward David West added 24 points and 12 rebounds, and center Roy Hibbert had 19 points and eight boards for the Pacers, who improved to 7-1 on the road.
"It's a great team win," George said. "We knew coming in it would be a hard-fought game and a hard-fourth win, but again, we just stuck to our principals."
The Clippers (12-6) fell to 8-2 at home this season, their downfall a slow shooting afternoon in which they sank just 39 of 89 shots while dealing with a Pacers defense that allowed 100 points or more just twice this season.
"We're human," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "It's not like our guys came in and were like, 'Let's not win today,' Indiana came in with a purpose. This was their first game on the West Coast trip, and you could see their seriousness at the beginning of the game."
Clippers guard Chris Paul, playing for the first time since suffering a right hamstring strain Wednesday against the New York Knicks, had 17 points 10 assists. Forward Blake Griffin added 16 points and 10 rebounds, and center DeAndre Jordan finished with 11 points and 12 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 (16-1) 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. Pacers guard George Hill was 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 Jordan cut the lead to 100-98, but Los Angeles guard Darren Collison inadvertently stepped out of bound on the baseline with the Clippers in position to tie it.
Paul missed an open jumper and Hibbert hit two 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 Pacers guard Lance Stephenson and Hill sank a combined three free throws to put it away.
"Heck of a win for our guys against a great basketball team in their building," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Our defense tried to stay the course with what we're trying to do."
The Clippers lamented a number of blown opportunities.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win it, but two of the biggest plays were jump shots I missed," said Paul, who declared his hamstring fine.
He added, "No moral victories. We gotta get stops when we need to, and we've got to make shots. I need to make shots."
Paul shot 6-for-15 from the floor.
NOTES: The Clippers suffered a significant blow when G J.J. Redick fractured a small bone in his right hand tore his right ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the second quarter of Los Angeles' 104-98 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Redick is expected to miss six to eight weeks. He will re-evaluated Monday by a hand specialist to determine further course of treatment. ... Clippers G 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 its top-ranked defense? A note on the Pacers' locker room message board read: "6-1 on the road 'cause defense travels." Indiana subsequently improved to 7-1 on the road by holding the Clippers to 43.9 percent shooting from the floor.