PREGAME REPORT | FEBRUARY 28, 2013

 



Tipoff: 4:00 p.m. PST | Bankers Life Fieldhouse | Indianapolis, IN | Notes »

                       

ERIC PATTEN

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INDIANAPOLIS – They are two of the hottest teams in the league as well as two of its most contrasting, but the Clippers and Indiana Pacers are both primed to make a move in their respective conferences.

For the first time this year, the Clippers (41-18) and Pacers (36-21) face off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana is in second place in the East, a half game clear of the New York Knicks, while the Clippers are two games out of second in the West.

Lately, the two teams have been as good as anyone this side of the Heat, who has won 12 consecutive games entering Thursday. The Pacers are on a five-game winning streak and own a point differential of +23.8 in that span. They were the first team in NBA history to win their first two games out of the All-Star break by 30 points or more.

The Clippers have won six of their last seven, topping 100 points in all six and winning by an average margin of 16.7 points per game.

And that’s where the divide between the two teams exists. The Pacers, who will be without center Roy Hibbert (suspension), are among the league’s elite defensive units. They are second in points allowed (89.6) and lead the league in defensive efficiency. Only 10 opponents all season have shot 47.0% or better against Indiana.

“I really love their team,” Chauncey Billups said. “Defensively they play really hard. I think they’re probably the second best team in the Eastern Conference, in my opinion.”

The Clippers, on the other hand, remain a top five team in defensive efficiency. And despite a swoon in late January and early February without Chris Paul, who missed 12 games with a bruised right kneecap, they are still ninth in scoring and seventh in offensive efficiency.

On Thursday, the numbers for either team will be put to the test. Can the Clippers’ elite offense stand up to the league’s stingiest defense? Can the Pacers, a team that is just 13-9 against the West, score enough points to keep up with the Clippers?

LAST TIME OUT

Clippers 106, Bobcats 84: It may have been one of the most entertaining 20-point blowouts possible. The Clippers had 13 dunks, including a dozen from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and marched their way to a sixth win in seven games.

Griffin threw down three consecutive dunks at the end of the second quarter, highlighted by a 60-foot alley-oop from Chris Paul. The superstar forward finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Caron Butler scored 16 points and Paul had 13 assists. Matt Barnes added 17 points off the bench for the Clippers, who were without Jamal Crawford (birth of his third child on Monday) and Eric Bledsoe (sore left calf).

“[Blake Griffin] was very productive along with Caron [Butler] who I thought had a good game, and along with Matt [Barnes],” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Chris [Paul] controlled the tempo of the game with his assists. It was good to see Chauncey [Billups] play a little bit more consistent minutes there than he has in the past, just with the bodies being down, but we still have to manage that. Lamar [Odom] hit a couple of threes which was great. Just a good, solid game.”

Pacers 108, Warriors 97: The host Pacers won their fifth in a row by taking down the Clippers’ division rival, but the game was marred by a fracas that broke out with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Hibbert and David Lee got into a shoving match underneath the basket and after several other players got involved the incident spilled into the stands nearby. Hibbert was ejected for shoving Stephen Curry down and four others received technical fouls. Lee and Hibbert were both suspended for a game, the league announced Wednesday.

Stephen Curry, who was shoved to the ground by Hibbert, scored a game-high 38 points, but three Pacers starters topped 20, including David West (28 points) and George Hill (23). All-Star Paul George added 21 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as Indiana held the high-scoring Warriors to 44 points in the second half.

NOTES

Crawford, who leads the NBA in scoring off the bench (16.7 ppg), is expected to play Thursday. Bledsoe is a game-time decision… The Clippers have not won in Indiana since December 2008… The Pacers are 24-5 at home this year… Indiana leads the NBA in rebounding at 45.9 boards per game, but could be hampered by the loss of HIbbert, the team’s top rebounder… Danny Granger (knee) will play in his third game this season. He is 2-for-17 from the field since returning to the lineup…