FINAL | February 28, 2013 | Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN 

Clippers

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99

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ERIC PATTEN  

INDIANAPOLIS – The Clippers were on the verge of losing a 17-point fourth quarter lead when Chris Paul had other ideas.

The MVP candidate knocked down consecutive baskets, including a step-back jumper over Tyler Hansbrough to preserve a 99-91 victory over the Indiana Pacers Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Indiana was on a 13-0 run when Paul weaved down the right side of the lane and hit the shot over Hansbrough and after David West answered with a jumper, Paul went right back at his former teammate, converting a tough layup in traffic. He did it again with 31.3 seconds to go, essentially icing the game against a Pacers team that had won five in a row.  

“You’ve got to hate to lose,” Paul said. “Here, we had a solid lead and this league is built off momentum. A few of those shots on that run, you’re just like, ‘Oh man, you know they’re going to make it.’ Then at some point, you’ve just got settle everything down and say it’s winning time.”

Winning time has come often for the Clippers (42-18) of late. Thursday’s victory was the seventh in their last eight and they remain within 3.5 games of the San Antonio Spurs for the league’s best record.

Paul finished with 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds in yet another transcendent performance. He made 11 of his 18 shots, including his final three. Blake Griffin added 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting with 14 rebounds for his 24th double-double of the year. And Jamal Crawford, who missed Tuesday’s game following the birth of his daughter, had 23 points off the bench.

“We battled, we fought and obviously Chris made some big plays down the stretch,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “But Blake (Griffin) was on the glass and did a good job. We got nice production from Jamal (Crawford).  I thought Ronny Turiaf gave us a big boost tonight. We had some open shots that we didn’t convert but we controlled our turnovers. That was very good. But it was a good solid win, a good team win. We made plays when we had to and picked it up defensively in the second half.”

It was one of the better wins of the season for the Clippers, who controlled most of the game against the league’s leader in defensive efficiency and rebounding. They scored their first 12 points in the paint, taking advantage of the absence of shot-blocking center Roy Hibbert who missed the game due to a one-game suspension after an on-court altercation with David Lee two days ago.

They outscored Indiana, 50-32, in the paint, and scored 21 points off of 20 Pacers turnovers. But it didn’t come without a scare in the final minutes. Indiana made consecutive 3-pointers to slice a 17-point lead to 11 in about 30 seconds and rumbled off seven more unanswered points. They never got closer than four, though, thanks to Paul.  

“We’ve sort of been a team that when we get those leads in the fourth quarter, every now and then, not always, but every now and then we sort of let teams back into it,” Paul said. “They went on a 13-0 run there and we just felt like we needed to close it out.”

As much as Paul controlled the final period with eight of his game-high 29, Griffin and Crawford carried much of the load early.

Indiana never led by more than two points or longer than consecutive possessions. They took a 60-59 lead early in the third quarter and the Clippers countered with a 14-6 run. Griffin had eight points in that stretch, not including a left-handed dunk along the left baseline on Ian Mahinmi that came a minute earlier.

Crawford scored at least five points in every quarter, finishing 9-for-16 on the night, nearly a week since his last game. He arrived in Indianapolis Thursday morning after spending the last three days with his fiancé, who gave birth to a baby girl, London, on Monday.

“I worked out a couple times whenever I could get some time,” Crawford said. “When you’re in season it’s important to stay in a rhythm as much as possible. I thought coach [Del Negro] drew up some great plays and my teammates did a great job of finding me and setting some great screens and I tried to take advantage.”

Paul added that finding a rhythm after sitting out can be challenge, for anyone but Crawford. “It’s tough for anybody but [Jamal]. He’s a natural scorer. He came right in and knew what he had to do and got it going.”

Crawford was 1-for-2 from 3-point range, making the only shot from long distance in a first half that saw the Clippers go 1-for-14 as a team.

“We got some great looks,” said Chauncey Billups, who was 1-for-6 with three points. “We executed our game plan offensively and defensively to a ‘t’ from the start and we just couldn’t get a shot to fall. I think we were 1-for-14 at the half from three. I had so many great looks, Caron [Butler] did. If we can get those kind of looks every night we’re happy, we’re winning. I was proud that we were able to keep the game close despite not making shots.”

They forced 15 Pacers turnovers in the first half, scored 32 points in the paint, and out-rebounded Indiana, 18-17. They extended their lead to as large as nine before halftime after a 6:07 drought from the field by the Pacers. 

“[The Clippers] did a good job scrambling us around,” said All-Star Paul George, who scored 20 points. “They did a good job of getting us off our game at times.  They sped us up a bit in the first half.  We just needed to take a breath and play our game. That 15-5 turnover ratio in the first half was a killer. We have to do better than that.  In the end we just didn’t knock down shots.  It was that kind of night.”

NOTES

DeAndre Jordan left the game in the third quarter with a bloody nose. X-rays taken during the game were negative and Jordan returned to the floor for a short stint in the fourth quarter… Point guard Eric Bledsoe had seven points, four assists and three rebounds in 13:14. He did not play Tuesday due to a sore left calf… The Clippers committed just 11 turnovers and shot 48.8% from the field, 17.4% from 3-point range.

 

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