LOS ANGELES (AP) — Despite having the NBA’s best record, the Indiana Pacers realize there’s always room for improvement.
David West scored 14 of his 24 points in the third quarter and grabbed 12 rebounds, Paul George had 27 points, and the Pacers improved their best start in franchise history to 16-1 on Sunday with a 105-100 victory that snapped the Los Angeles Clippers’ four-game winning streak.
“We can become a lot better. We’re still nowhere close to where we want to be offensively, and that’s the next step for us,” George said. “The defense is clicking well, the transition defense is clicking well, and we’re playing like a team. This was a great win for us. We knew coming in that it was going to be a hard-fought game.”
Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 20 points — the 10th time this season that a Pacers opponent didn’t have anyone with more than 20. Chris Paul had 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Blake Griffin scored 16 and pulled down 12 rebounds, equaling teammate DeAndre Jordan’s total.
“We’re always up for a challenge, and we had a good one today,” said center Roy Hibbert, who helped fuel the Pacers’ seventh straight win with 19 points. “The Clippers are going to be a contender for the Western Conference finals, so we just had to get in there and grind it out today and finish it off. But we have a lot more work to do. We don’t worry about swagger. We’re just five individuals out there on the court playing together.”
The defending Pacific Division champion Clippers played their first game since finding out that J.J. Redick will be sidelined six to eight weeks because of a broken bone in his shooting hand and a ligament tear in his right elbow.
Redick will be re-evaluated on Monday by hand specialist Dr. Steve Shin to determine what further course of treatment will be necessary. His injuries, which occurred in Friday night’s 104-98 overtime win at Sacramento, complicated things even more for the Clippers with reserve forward Matt Barnes missing his sixth straight game due to an eye injury.
“The ligament looks intact, so they shouldn’t have to operate on that,” Redick said. “It’s just the fragments of the bone. It’s still swollen and there’s some pain there. It’s frustrating, because I have enjoyed those 17 games immensely.”
Los Angeles used the same starting lineup in each of its first 16 games before Paul sat out Friday’s game with a right hamstring strain. Rivers opted to continue using Jamal Crawford off the bench despite his 31-point outing at Sacramento, so Willie Green started in Redick’s place and scored only two points in 15 minutes.
West capped a 13-3 run with an 18-footer and two free throws to give the Pacers their biggest lead, 74-60, with 4:48 left in the third. Los Angeles closed to 93-89 on Jordan’s dunk off an alley-oop lob from backup point guard Darren Collison with 7:12 to play. Paul set up another one by Jordan with 1:05 to go, pulling the Clippers within 102-100.
“It’s going to happen. I mean, the way CP can move the ball and throw the ball up, we’re not going to take that lob away,” George said. “But we’re not going to give up 3s and we’re not going to let their shooters get hot.”
The Clippers had a chance to tie it again after a missed 3-point shot by Lance Stephenson at the other end. But Paul missed a 15-footer that rattled around the rim, and the Pacers made three of four free throws in the final 6.9 seconds to put it away.
“I had two great looks at the end,” Paul said. “If I make one of those shots it ties the game up and puts pressure on them, so I was mad and disgusted in myself because I got the shot that I wanted.”
George powered the Pacers to a 53-47 halftime lead with 18 points. The Clippers trailed by 11 late in the first quarter before taking their only lead, 41-40, on a dunk by Griffin with 3:05 left in the half.
NOTES: The Pacers began a five-game road trip that includes matchups with the top-four teams in the Western Conference — including Portland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. … The Clippers start a seven-game trip on Wednesday night, all against teams that don’t have a winning record. … The Pacers blocked four shots, increasing their NBA-best total to 125. Hibbert leads the league with 61. … The Pacers, who came in averaging 19.4 points off turnovers, converted 12 Clippers turnovers into 17 points. … The Clippers shot 43.9 percent against the Pacers, who came in with the NBA’s best defensive field goal percentage (38.7) and the fewest points allowed per game (85.6).