After falling into an early hole on Sunday, the undermanned Pacers mounted a charge, trimming an 18-point deficit to two points with 10:13 remaining in the third quarter.
But Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers had too much firepower. The two-time NBA Finals MVP had 11 points and five assists in the third quarter alone, as Los Angeles (10-4) outscored Indiana 39-20 in the frame on its way to a 129-96 win at Staples Center.
Doug McDermott scored a season-high 23 points, while Domantas Sabonis added 17 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists, but the Pacers (8-5) simply didn't have enough to keep up with the Clippers, as they finished their four-game West Coast road trip with a 2-2 record.
Indiana was without the NBA's leading shot-blocker Myles Turner for the first time this season due to a right hand injury sustained in Thursday's win in Portland. Turner joined a growing group on the injury list as one of five players unavailable for the Blue & Gold on Sunday.
McDermott, starting just his second game in a Pacers uniform, got off to a hot start for Indiana. McDermott knocked down his first six shots, including three 3-pointers, as he scored 15 of the Pacers' first 23 points, helping the visitors get out to an early four-point lead.
But Marcus Morris scored seven points as the Clippers closed the frame with a 17-3 run to take a 36-26 lead into the second quarter.
The Clippers extended their lead to 18 points on Luke Kennard's 3-pointer with 7:19 remaining in the first half. The Pacers answered, however, as Domantas Sabonis scored eight points during a 16-2 Indiana run.
The Pacers trimmed their deficit to 56-53 on McDermott's triple with 1:43 remaining, but Morris answered with a three of his own on the other end. Nicolas Batum added two free throws in the final minute before Sabonis corralled a Malcolm Brogdon miss and hit an acrobatic shot at the buzzer to make it a 61-55 game at the intermission.
Indiana opened the second half with a 6-2 run, trimming its deficit to two on Sabonis' jumper less than two minutes into the third quarter. But back-to-back 3-pointers from Batum and Patrick Beverley started a Clippers surge.
Four-time All-Star Leonard took over from there, scoring on two straight dunks, a layup, and a 3-pointer in a three-minute span to help push Los Angeles' lead back to double digits.
The hosts used an extended 34-11 run to push their lead to as many as 25 points. Six different Clippers combined to make eight 3-pointers in the frame and Leonard's buzzer-beating tip-in gave Los Angeles a 100-75 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"All of them were hitting," Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "We were putting a lot of attention on Leonard and (Paul) George, and they had other guys step up and make shots, which made it a little more difficult for us."
Indiana opened the final frame with six unanswered points, only for Luke Kennard and Paul George to combine for all of the Clippers' points in a subsequent 16-4 run that pushed the lead to 31 and slammed the door on any hopes of a comeback.
McDermott finished the night 9-for-12 and 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Sabonis recorded his 13th consecutive double-double, Malcolm Brogdon added 16 points and eight assists, and Justin Holiday finished with 15 points in the loss.
George, Kennard, and Morris each scored 20 points to share high-scoring honors for the Clippers. Leonard added 17 points, seven rebounds, and five assists while sitting out the entire fourth quarter.
The Pacers will now return to Indianapolis, where they will open a four-game homestand on Wednesday night against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
"We have a couple days for everybody to get healthy and we have another big game coming at home," Sabonis said.
Inside the Numbers
McDermott started for the 15th time in his career and just the second time in 159 games with the Pacers. His last start came on April 10, 2019, when Indiana rested five players in its final regular season game. McDermott's 23 points were one shy of his Pacers career high and a career-best as a starter.
Sabonis recorded his 13th straight double-double, matching his own franchise record for consecutive games with a double-double. He previously accomplished the feat from Nov. 25 to Dec. 17, 2019.
The Clippers' bench outscored Indiana's reserves by a resounding margin of 65-14.
Los Angeles outrebounded the Pacers, 52-33.
The Pacers had not trailed in a game by 20 points all season prior to Sunday.
You Can Quote Me On That
"We played a lot of different defenses. I was trying some different things out there and our guys, they have such an elite level of thinking that they can handle different defenses and they can handle them on the fly...You have to have a smart team who cares and plays hard to do that." -Bjorkgren on utilizing a triangle-and-two, box-and-one, and other defenses on Sunday to try to slow down Leonard and George
"We had some guys down, so I just figured that I just had to bring that scoring mentality right off the bat. Obviously it wasn't enough tonight, but it felt good to be out there with that first unit...Regardless of if I'm starting or coming off the bench, (I've) just got to continue to have that attacking mindset." -McDermott on his mentality as a starter on Sunday
"They shot the ball very well. They were knocking open shots down. They played pretty consistent throughout the whole game. We fought and it just didn't work out for us tonight." -Holiday on the difference in the game
"They started making shots. I feel like we were leaving guys too open. We were throwing out a lot of defenses and I feel they caught onto some of the triangle-and-two and the box-and-one and then it was harder for us to catch up." -Sabonis on the Clippers breaking open the game in the third quarter
"It's going to be difficult to beat a lot of teams without having a rim protector down there, especially with how we play defense so aggressive. We force dudes to have to drive and go in there and make plays...We have to find a way to keep the ball in front of us a little better." -Holiday on the impact of Turner's absence
Stat of the Night
The Clippers entered the night leading the NBA in 3-point percentage at .436, then went 19-for-39 from 3-point range against the Pacers. Kennard went 5-for-8, Morris was 4-for-7, and Patterson was 3-for-6 to lead the 3-point barrage. A Pacers opponent has only made more 3-pointers in a game twice in franchise history.
- The Pacers have now dropped their last three games against the Clippers. Indiana had won five straight meetings from 2016-19.
- Second-year center Goga Bitadze and two-way wing Brian Bowen II made their season debuts after missing the first 12 games with a right ankle sprain and a partial groin tear, respectively. Bitadze had five points, two rebounds, twoo steals, and one block in 16 minutes off the bench. Bowen played the final 5:06, registering three points and one board.
- The Clippers were without starting center Serge Ibaka (non-COVID illness) and sixth man Lou Williams (left hip discomfort).
A limited number of tickets for upcoming Pacers home games from Jan. 24 through March 4 will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Single Game Tickets » Health & Safety Guidelines »
The Pacers return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to host Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 7:00 PM ET.