The Clippers probably thought they had sealed a quality road win over the Pacers much earlier than they had, getting out to a lead of as many as 17 points with 5:38 remaining in regulation.
But as they’ve done all season long, the Pacers refused to quit, and went on a furious 13-0 run in less than three minutes of game time to cut the L.A. lead to just four with 2:45 to play.
Chris Paul took matters into his own hands from there, however, and scored his team’s final eight points to give the Clippers the 99-91 victory over one of the East’s top-tier teams.
It wasn’t as though the Pacers didn’t have their chances. Even without Roy Hibbert, who was forced to miss this one due to serving a one-game suspension for his role in the altercation with the Warriors on Tuesday, Indiana remained close, especially in the first half, by defensively trading the Clippers’ three-point shooting for points in the paint instead.
As L.A. opened 1-14 from three-point distance in the first half, the team managed to do its damage inside, outscoring the Pacers 32-14 in the paint. Indiana stayed close by shooting better than 52 percent from the field as a team and 60 percent from three-point distance, but the 15 first-half turnovers left the Pacers trailing by two at intermission even after a buzzer-beating three-pointer from David West went down as the second quarter game clock expired.
The Pacers’ shooting cooled considerably in the second half, and they fell behind big as a result. Just as they closed the gap to four, however, Paul made sure that was as close as they would get.
Paul hit a 15-foot jumper, before getting to the rim and scoring on driving layups on his team’s next two trips down the floor. His final points of the night came at the free throw line with the game having already been decided.
The Pacers without Hibbert were challenged inside, and the Clippers got the better of the matchup all night long. But really, this game came down to star power when the contest was hanging in the balance — the Clippers have one of the game’s most competitive players in Paul who can score almost at will down the stretch, while the Pacers rely on more of a team dynamic to get the job done.
On this night, the star beat the team concept when things mattered most.