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5 Keys: Pacers-Clippers
January 17, 2014
The Pacers conclude a four-game homestand on Saturday night, when they'll host the Los Angeles Clippers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 7 PM. Click through for five key storylines to watch in Saturday's game. -by Wheat Hotchkiss, Pacers.com
1. Stick to Redick
Though the Clippers suffered a big blow when they lost Chris Paul to a shoulder injury, they got a big boost last Friday when J.J. Redick returned from a wrist injury that had sidelined him six weeks. Redick is one of the sharpest shots in the Wild, Wild Western Conference, and he hasn’t missed a beat since returning to the lineup.
Redick scored 19 points against the Lakers in his first game back and followed that performance up by dropping a career-high 33 points on the Mavs on Wednesday night. In the win, Redick showed off the shooting touch that made him the most prolific 3-point shooter in NCAA history, sinking 7-of-9 attempts from long range.
The Pacers lead the NBA in 3-point defense, but they’ll need to be extra careful with Redick. In their last loss on Jan. 8, the Pacers surrendered 10 3-pointers to the Hawks and allowed sharpshooter Kyle Korver to get free on occasion. It’s imperative that Lance Stephenson or whoever else is guarding Redick keeps him in their sights at all times.
2. Keep Flights Grounded
The Clippers’ high-flying frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have made regular appearances in Sportscenter’s Top Ten Plays over the past couple seasons with their explosive dunks. Those plays can dramatically alter the feel of a game, so it’s important Indiana minimizes Lob City's opportunities.
Two ways to do that are limiting turnovers to negate the Clippers’ fast break opportunities (Indiana had a season-low six giveaways in Thursday’s win over New York) and committing hard, clean fouls when necessary to prevent the big dunk (David West certainly won’t back down from that assignment).
3. Battle of the Bigs
Griffin and Jordan might be known for their dunking, but they’ve got plenty more to their games. The young duo (Griffin is just 24, Jordan 25) continues to improve, and their recent play has put them firmly in the conversation for the best frontcourt in the NBA.
Griffin is averaging 26 points and 10 boards per game, while shooting 54 percent from the field in his last 15 games (through Friday afternoon). Jordan isn’t as prolific a scorer, but he leads the NBA in field goal percentage (.642), ranks third in the league in blocks per game (2.48), and is relentless on the glass (he’s grabbed double-digit rebounds in 17 straight games).
The Pacers have a veteran frontcourt pairing in Roy Hibbert and David West. While the Clippers’ duo is formidable, they do have some weaknesses. They’re not as strong on the defensive end, and Hibbert especially could exploit his three-inch height differential over Jordan. A bruiser like West is the exact type of player that can give Griffin headaches. Indeed, West put up 24-and-12 while limiting Griffin to 6-of-13 shooting in the Pacers’ 105-100 win in L.A. on Dec. 1.
4. Family Reunion
When the Pacers first returned to the postseason in the spring of 2011, it was Darren Collison who started all five games at point guard for the blue-and-gold. By the end of the next year, George Hill had replaced Collison as the Pacers’ starter, and Indiana dealt Collison to Dallas that summer for Ian Mahinmi.
Fast forward a year and a half, and Collison is suddenly behind the reins of one of the NBA’s best offenses, assuming the starting point guard spot with Paul sidelined. Collison has risen to the task, averaging 16.6 points and 7.2 assists in five games since Paul’s injury. In his past seven games, Collison is shooting a remarkable 63.1 percent from the field.
Hill vs. Collison is certainly a matchup to keep an eye on Saturday night. The two players who once competed for the same job know each other’s strengths and tendencies. Though they definitely care more about winning the game, winning the individual battle will likely be a source of pride for the victor.
5. No California Dreaming
After Saturday night, the Pacers will head to the West Coast for an eight-day, five-game road trip that starts Monday at Golden State. Several players and coaches have expressed some excitement about getting away from the snow and enjoying some warmer weather. But before they head for sunnier skies, the Pacers have to take care of business against the Clippers.
It’s been a successful home stand, with three tremendous performances leading to blowout victories that have erased the sour taste from their loss in Atlanta. Closing strong has been the Pacers’ strength all season, and with a challenging road trip on the horizon, getting one more home win is key for Indiana to maintain its stranglehold on the No. 1 seed in the East.