Pacers-Clippers Preview

Coming off back-to-back losses, the Los Angeles Clippers are

still one win away from reaching 50 for the first time in team

history.

Coach Vinny Del Negro is hoping to see a stronger sense of

urgency down the stretch.

Hoping to move a step closer to their first division title, the

Pacific-leading Clippers return home looking to regroup Monday

night against the surging Indiana Pacers.

While Los Angeles (49-25) beat New Orleans 105-91 on Wednesday

to tie the 1974-75 team record for wins, it’s had difficulty

breaking the record. The Clippers fell 104-102 at San Antonio on

Friday, then put on an embarrassing display the following night in

a 98-81 loss at Houston.

Unable to take advantage of James Harden’s absence, the Clippers

were outscored 30-13 in the third quarter and 48-26 in the paint.

Chris Paul had 19 points but was the only starter to play in the

fourth as Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler and Willie

Green were benched.

“We were terrible, our effort was terrible, our attitude was

terrible and our urgency was terrible,” said Del Negro, whose team

was playing its fourth game in five nights. “They know exactly how

I feel, and they didn’t say much. That’s not what we’re about.”

Del Negro was especially upset with Griffin and Jamal Crawford,

who both drew technical fouls for arguing calls.

“When that happens, it’s a selfish act that doesn’t make any

sense, and it hurts the team,” Del Negro said. “I’ve got a lot of

whining going on and a lack of urgency going on and it’s

disappointing.”

Though they haven’t played up to par of late, the Clippers sit

seven games ahead of Golden State in the Pacific with eight to go.

Los Angeles, which joined the NBA as the Buffalo Braves in 1970-71,

has never won its division.

“Every game now counts, it’s a dogfight till the finish line,”

Grant Hill said. “We got to stop making excuses and look at

ourselves and take responsibility. At this point in time, a nice

win would be good. Just get a win, get back to playing Clipper

basketball.”

The Clippers could have a hard time bouncing back against the

Pacers (47-27), winners in seven of eight. Having outscored

opponents by an average of 12.0 points during its four-game run,

Indiana stayed hot Saturday with a 112-104 victory at Phoenix.

Paul George had 25 points and all five starters scored at least

14 for the Pacers, who shot 34 of 46 from the foul line to set

season highs in both categories. Indiana, which sits percentage

points behind second-place New York in the Eastern Conference,

improved to 20-3 when making at least 20 free throws.

“We try to pound it inside and force teams to foul us if they

don’t have great low post defenders, and then we pound the glass,”

coach Frank Vogel said. “We have ones, twos and threes that are

good attackers as well.”

Roy Hibbert added 20 points, Lance Stephenson 16, George Hill 15

and David West 14.

“We are a team that is filled with leaders,” said Hibbert. “Paul

took over in moments, David came in and closed the game out, George

made some spectacular plays and Lance is our bulldog.”

While Hibbert missed a 99-91 loss to the Clippers on Feb. 28 due

to suspension, he could be a difference maker Monday. The All-Star

center is averaging 19.8 points – 8.4 more than his season mark –

and 11.2 rebounds over the last five games.

Paul had 29 points, Crawford scored 23 and Griffin posted 18 and

14 boards for Los Angeles in that Feb. 28 win.