PREGAME REPORT | APRIL 1, 2013
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. PST | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »
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LOS ANGELES – When the Indiana Pacers visit Staples Center Monday night they will meet a Clippers team that in many ways desperately needs a win.
After dropping three of their four games on a five-night road trip, the Clippers (49-25) subsequently fell to the fifth best record in the Western Conference, one game back in the loss column behind Memphis and Denver. Monday is their first chance at rebounding from what was deemed an unacceptable loss to the Houston Rockets two nights earlier.
“We’re fine,” Jamal Crawford said after Monday morning’s shoot-around. “We just had a day off. We’re fresh and [want to] build momentum going into the playoffs.”
The game also serves as a potential milestone for the Clippers franchise. They are one victory away from the first 50-win season in franchise history and can also move to within a game of clinching their first-ever Pacific Division title.
They have already had two chances at 50 victories since winning No. 49 on Mar. 27, but fell short in their next two games.
For the Pacers (47-27), it is the final game of a four-game trip through the Western Conference. They have won four in a row and seven of their last eight overall. But the last time the Pacers were on this kind of winning stretch, the Clippers went into Banker’s Life Fieldhouse and won by eight. That was a month ago, when the Pacers were without center Roy Hibbert (suspension) and had just got former All-Star Danny Granger (knee) back.
This time Granger is out for the season and David West is day-to-day with a lower back sprain, while Hibbert, a first-time All-Star last season and Indiana’s defensive anchor, will start. Meanwhile, the Clippers are not expected to have Chauncey Billups (groin) available and Matt Barnes, who sprained his ankle in Houston on Saturday, is listed as doubtful.
LAST TIME OUT
Rockets 98, Clippers 81: A night after losing in the final 2.2 seconds to the San Antonio Spurs, the Clippers fell flat in Houston. The Rockets, playing without All-Star James Harden, began pulling away towards the end of the first half and rolled in the third quarter, outscoring the Clippers, 30-13.
“The game definitely got away from us [in the third quarter] and at that point we were just trying to cut it down by the end of the quarter but we just couldn’t get there,” Crawford said postgame.
Chris Paul scored 19 points with seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. Crawford had 15 off the bench and Ryan Hollins added six points and eight rebounds in reserve of DeAndre Jordan. But Houston countered with double-figures from five players and 39 points combined from an undermanned bench.
“We played terrible and we didn’t give ourselves a chance,” Blake Griffin said.
Pacers 112, Suns 104: Indiana continued their roll through the West Saturday in Phoenix. All-Star Paul George scored a game-high 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting and added four rebounds, four assists and four steals. Hibbert had 20 points and all five Pacers starters scored in double-figures for the eleventh time this season.
Phoenix fell behind eight at halftime and lost despite shooting 48.8% from the field, tallying 30 assists and converting 18 of its 19 free throws. Indiana was aided by 46 foul shots (34 makes), including a 15-for-22 performance from George and Hibbert combined.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Stingy defense. Monday night’s game could be low scoring. The Pacers lead the NBA allowing 95.4 points per 100 possessions. Their defensive efficiency is not predicated on turnovers, but forcing opponents into contested shots and protecting the rim. Teams are shooting 41.5% from the field against them (best in the league) and scoring just 34.8 points in the paint per game (also tops in the NBA).
“When defenses are more aggressive, you have to be aggressive as well offensively,” Crawford said. “They have very athletic wings with Paul George and [Lance] Stephenson and all those guys. They really get it after it defensively. They’re built to help and they really do a good job of it.”
The Clippers have not shown the same stopping power as the Pacers on a consistent basis, but remain one of the more aggressive defenses in their own right. They force a league-best 16.3 turnovers per game and are second in points in the paint allowed at 36.8. Moreover, when the Clippers hold opponents to 42% shooting or worse they are undefeated (26-0).
The Clippers have not swept the season series with Indiana since 2004-05. They have won two in a row at home against the Pacers… L.A. is undefeated (7-0) this season at Staples Center against Eastern Conference playoff teams... The Pacers have a magic number of three to clinch the Central Division… The Clippers have won three in a row at home overall...