LOS ANGELES -- The Indiana Pacers led by as much as 24 points in the third quarter, but the Los Angeles Clippers unleashed a furious rally before the Pacers eventually closed them out for a 109-106 win Monday at Staples Center.
Clippers forward Matt Barnes cut the lead to one point with two seconds left after a missed Chris Paul 3-pointer, but his argument for a potential game-tying free-throw attempt was futile after appearing to draw a foul. After two Paul George free throws, Lamar Odom had a last-ditch 3-point attempt that clanked off the back of the rim.
Los Angeles found itself in the precarious position because of the post presence of Indiana's Roy Hibbert.
In the teams' last matchup, Hibbert missed the game because of suspension, and his absence was felt in the Clippers' eight-point win.
His presence was noticeable Monday, when he finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds..
Hibbert had 15 points in the first quarter as the Pacers built a 29-21 lead. Los Angeles managed to keep the game close behind strong bench play as the Clippers' reserves ultimately outscored the Pacers' 60-18.
However, George had 11 points in the third quarter to stake Indiana to a 81-65 lead, and the Pacers ultimately outlasted the Clippers to cut their magic number to two for the Eastern Conference Central Division title.
The Clippers' magic number for their first Pacific Division title remains two.
Indiana (48-27) got itself closer to postseason glory with a balanced effort against Los Angeles (49-26).
Six Pacers scored in double figures, led by Hibbert. George had 23 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, and David West added 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Jamal Crawford led Los Angeles with 25 points, but the Clippers were doomed by poor production from their starting lineup. Blake Griffin had 17 points but just five rebounds and finished with a plus-minus rating of negative-22. Starting center DeAndre Jordan had zero points and five rebounds, and Paul finished with 10 points but shot 2-for-12.
NOTES: Chauncey Billups (groin) remains day-to-day for the Clippers. Matt Barnes played despite being listed as doubtful with a sprained right ankle. He scored eight points. ... Danny Granger (knee) remains sidelined for the Pacers. West was listed as day-to-day with a lower back sprain but played. ... Los Angeles won the first matchup between the teams, 99-91 on Feb. 28 at Indiana. Hibbert missed the game because of suspension and the Clippers took advantage with Paul's 29 points and Griffin's 18 points and 14 rebounds. ... Griffin had a career-high 47 points against the Pacers on Jan. 17, 2011. ... The Pacers (third) and Clippers (seventh) both rank among the NBA's best teams in blocked shots. ... The Clippers are zeroing in on their first division title, which would leave the Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Bobcats as the lone NBA teams without division titles. ... The Pacers are close to clinching their first Central Division title in nine years. ... The Clippers' 10-game winning streak against Eastern Conference teams ended Monday. ... Paul is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers' Tuesday matchup against San Francisco. ... Indiana leads the NBA in scoring defense at 89.66 points per game.