Post-Game Grade: Pacers Outplay Then Outlast Clippers in an Uber-Entertaining Afternoon Affair
If you couldn’t enjoy this game, you probably can’t enjoy basketball. Perhaps life. Hopefully you didn’t skip this one for football.
Because it was a doozy full of highlights (like this and this and this and this and this and this and this) not to mention some stellar individual performances — especially from the league’s two best players who have “Paul” in their name.
The Pacers kicked off their westward road trip in Staples Center, where Los Angeles’ marquee team, the Clippers, was out to entertain and devastate.
Indiana took control early. An 11-2 run over three minutes midway through the first quarter was quick evidence that these Pacers were not going to be perturbed by an afternoon tip off in the Western Time Zone. Some Chris Paul brilliance cut into the double-digit lead, but Indiana was on their grind and still lead by 7 after the first 12 minutes.
On Twitter, I joked that the game would be tied within four minutes, noting the ongoing trope where all Pacers leads quickly dissipate in the second quarter as the starter rest.
Well, it took a little over five minutes before the score was knotted at 35, but the sentiment remained. This was a depressing scoring drought on par with what Pacers fans became accustomed to in past seasons. Six points in seven minutes. Yuck.
Fortunately, The Five returned and it was Paul George and David West to the rescue. George dropped 9 points in 135 seconds (two triples and a gorgeous midrange jumper plus the foul) while West put in four before halftime, including this buzzer-beating putback that gave Indiana a six-point edge at the break.
Let’s not sell the Clippers short here either. Chris Paul was everything he has ever been advertised as. This rapid onslaught is the exact thing that has broken many Indiana opponents this year. Not the Clippers. Certainly not Chris Paul, who closed the half with a series of exquisite buckets and assists that ensured his team wouldn’t fall too far behind.
The third quarter belonged to David West. Blake Griffin put in a bid for ownership, but it was outright denied with a giant, red rubber stamp. The Clippers were running some double teams at George to get the ball out of the hands of the Pacer wing who had stuck 18 points on their head in the first half, and this left plenty of opportunities for West, who hit some jumpers, worked position and proverbially spent the period yelling “WEIGHT ROOM” at the entire Los Angeles front court.
Go West, young man — and on the first stop of this road trip in that direction, how did they ever. And when you watch such devastation unfold (14 points on 6-for-8 shooting, several being unblockable fadeaways, in the third) it really makes you remember that, for any given 12-minute stretch, Indiana has five separate guys who can be the best player on the floor.
Unfortunately for Indiana, however, this second half was once again a little bit tales-of-two-quarters-y. Taking a 10-point edge into the final 12 minutes, it looked like this one was securely in hand. Highlights aside, this had been a game controlled by the Pacers. Just play that defense they play and hit enough shots in the fourth, and this should have been a rap.
Jamal Crawford had other ideas.
Jam Jam Craw Craw got it going quickly. He hit several shots and made multiple amazing moves. In this here sport of basketball, the guy with the ball always has the advantage, and sometimes not even a defense as world-class as Indiana’s can do anything about that. What can ya say? Talent gonna talent.
Between Crawford’s theatrics (10 points in four possessions over 1:35 that cut the lead to four) and the moribund offensive showing the Pacers exhibited, this was soon a game again. It was a good thing that as Kevin Arnovitz said, length doesn’t slump, because Indiana sure couldn’t score. Though they only put up three points in four minutes, the post-Crawford-explosion Clippers’ lost a little juice.
George Hill added a scoring boost, the defense ramped up, Indiana’s bigs grabbed some timely offensive boards and that was enough to allow this one to be decided by free throws. Which the Pacers made just enough of to win. Had Chris Paul been productive late (0-for-3 with 0 points in the fourth), this may have turned out differently. But CP3 improbably missed two shots he often drills, so this one went to the team that played better for most of the 48 minutes.
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest way to close out a victory, but they actually have real teams out here west of the Mississippi, so it was still a fine way to start off this road trip.
|David West, PF 35 MIN | 11-22 FG | 2-2 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 24 PTS | +17
As with the whole team, he wasn’t able to score much in the fourth (0-for-3). But he was an assassin beforehand (11-for-19 in quarters one through three), often making Blake Griffin look like a freshman trying to hang with the seniors. He also helped keep the ball alive late as Indiana got the offensive boards that sealed the victory.
|Paul George, SF 35 MIN | 10-23 FG | 3-3 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 27 PTS | +14
What more can I say? As good as he got over the summer, it’s like the evolution is still continuing by the day. He dropped 18 points in the first half, and while he missed some looks in the fourth (including a few bad shots), Indiana built its lead on the strength of his brilliance. It’s been a long, long time (Jalen Rose days?) since Pacer fans have had the pleasure of watching one of their perimeter guys go head-to-head with a fella like Chris Paul in this way. What a show these two put on.
|Roy Hibbert, C 36 MIN | 8-16 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | +18
Scored 9 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter (3 FGs, 3 FTs) while hauling in 3 offensive rebounds. Increased his defensive intensity late, too, as Indiana thwarted the Clippers’ final attempts to steal the win.
|George Hill, PG 36 MIN | 2-5 FG | 6-6 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | +21
Stuck his FTs and finished with a nice little line.
|Lance Stephenson, SG 39 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-3 FT | 10 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 7 PTS | +3
Stat stuffing, per usual at this point, and he had several nice assists blown by poor finishes. Was active with the ball, but didn’t look to shoot much, made a few questionable decisions and let this happen to him.
|Luis Scola, PF 13 MIN | 1-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | -12
Spelled West after he played the whole third quarter, and it was a big drop off. Indiana was outscored 15-9 in his 4:50 in the fourth as Scola missed both shots he attempted.
|Solomon Hill, SF 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -5
Hit one three in seven minutes and didn’t do anything that noticeably detracted from Indiana playing winning hoops. That’s what you want to see from a rookie on the fringe of the rotation.
|Ian Mahinmi, C 12 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-6 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -13
Stonehands’d a pass or two and didn’t add a ton. Spaced the floor well though, I though.
|C.J. Watson, PG 18 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -19
Two games after he was Dale Ellis reincarnate, he passed up a wide-open three from the corner later in order to swing it to Lance (who missed an open three). This was perhaps because he missed 4 of his previous 5 three-point attempts, but you need to take open shots — especially from the short corner. Was fine process-wise otherwise, but need more production in 18 minutes.
|Orlando Johnson, SG 9 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +1
He entered the game a bit early and had a nice first-quarter stint.