FINAL | April 1, 2013 | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA

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LOS ANGELES – The venue and opponent were different, but in some ways the Clippers’ matchup with the Indiana Pacers Monday looked a lot like their 17-point loss two days earlier in Houston. Then a couple of defensive stops led to a couple more and the Clippers rolled off an improbable rally.

Down by as many as 24 points late in the third quarter, L.A. closed to within one with 1.9 seconds to go. Ultimately, the Pacers hung on to win, 109-106, at Staples Center but not before a stirring finish.

It was the fourth loss in five games for the Clippers (49-26), who missed out on winning their 50th game of the season on their third straight attempt. It also knocked them two losses behind idle Denver and Memphis, who defeated an undermanned Spurs team by two Monday night.

While the Clippers were flat in the first two-plus quarters, things changed drastically over the final 15 minutes. And after closing to within three and possession of the ball with 1.9 seconds left, Lamar Odom got an open look at a 3-pointer from straightaway that missed long at the buzzer.

Odom finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two assists.

“The bench gave us a chance with their energy and their effort,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We just got production from our bench pretty much. We couldn’t get anything going.”

The Clippers bench outscored the Pacers, 60-18, and put together a 35-18 stretch against mostly Indiana’s starting unit before Chris Paul re-entered with 4:07 to go. Even with Paul alongside him Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford was the offensive leader of the comeback. He scored 15 of his team-high 25 points in the final period, darting through defenders for layups and floaters and made all six of his foul shots.

“I was watching tape from the beginning of the season and how I was attacking,” Crawford said. “I wasn’t just waiting for the action to come to me, I was making the action kind of go. And my teammates told me be aggressive and coach [Del Negro] told me be aggressive and from here on out that’s how I’ll be.”

With the five-man reserve unit of Crawford, Odom, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe and Ryan Hollins on the floor L.A. regained the urgency and desperation that was missing in the last game and a half. They scored 41 points in the fourth quarter against the league’s stingiest defensive team, pressured Indiana defensively and forced missed shots that seemed to come with little regularity early on.

“We just scrapped,” said Hollins, who scored 11 points with six rebounds in a career-high 31:25. “It was a good game plan by the coaches. We went a little zone just to change things up. We were just scrappy. There’s no rhyme or reason we got back in it, nothing special. We just played really hard and started to attack them offensively, which kind of took their legs out a little bit.”

Early on, Indiana’s legs were outrunning the Clippers to the pace of a 10-0 start to the game. and a 79-55 lead after David West’s jumper with 3:10 left in the third quarter.

Indiana made nine of their first 11 shots and the Clippers did not grab their first defensive rebound until the 4:33 mark of the first quarter. They only had two in the entire period, allowing 29 points (15 from Roy Hibbert) and allowed 16 points in the paint. The Pacers started the second half similarly, scoring on nine of their first 12 possessions.  

Despite the slow start and Hibbert’s first-half perfection, the Clippers cut Indiana’s lead to 39-36 behind 15 points from the reserve corps to open the second quarter. After a layup by Odom with 6:50 left in the period, though, they suffered a four-minute scoreless drought.

But five points from the Clippers in the final 3.6 seconds of the first half, including a 3-point play by Blake Griffin driving past Tyler Hansbrough and a tip in by Caron Butler made it 51-43 going into the break.

Butler’s play was somewhat unbelievable. After Griffin’s basket and ensuing free throw Hansbrough threw the ball away, giving the Clippers possession underneath the Pacers basket. Griffin’s shot fell well short but Butler, whose back was to the basket, tipped the ball backwards over his head as the buzzer sounded.

They never capitalized on the momentum, waiting almost nine minutes into the second half before they went on their extended run to close the game. It picked up steam when Odom converted a 3-point play with a layup driving into the chest of Ian Mahinmi and after Eric Bledsoe (seven points and five assists) spun inside for a layup and foul to open the fourth quarter the comeback was on.

By the time Matt Barnes tipped in a miss by Paul with 2.2 seconds to go, cutting Indiana’s lead to one, the Clippers had outscored the Pacers, 51-28, over a 15:08 stretch. But Paul George nailed a pair of free throws on the other end and Odom’s final shot went wry as the horn sounded.

“It’s tough,” Paul said. “Because you’re almost in a situation where you can’t mess up. Every play become a big play. We turned it over there at the end or they hit a three or something like that. We played great in the second half, it was just that we had to play almost perfect in order to win.”


Chauncey Billups (groin) missed his third game in a row and sixth in the last seven… The Clippers played their final home game against an Eastern Conference opponent this season. They were 7-1 against the East’s eight playoff teams…  The largest regular-season deficit overcome in franchise history is 24… Paul scored 10 points with eight assists, but shot just 2-for-12. Griffin had 17 points and five rebounds… The Pacers got 26 points from Hibbert, who opened the game by making his first eight shots… All five Indiana starters scored at least 10 points. They are 9-3 when that happens… The Clippers still have a magic number of two to clinch their first-ever division title…


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