Pacers 107, Clippers 80
Danny Granger has a well-earned reputation as a scorer. Now, his defense is catching up.
Granger scored 22 points and helped clamp down on Clippers guard Eric Gordon, leading the short-handed Indiana Pacers to a 107-80 victory over banged-up Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Gordon scorched the Pacers in an 11-point first quarter, even dunking on 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert. Indiana coach Jim O'Brien put Granger on Gordon in the second, and the Indianapolis native never recovered. He finished with 19 points on 5-for-17 shooting.
''We kept him to a bad shooting night and that was our goal,'' Granger said. ''He was a big part of them being successful, so we had to take care of it.''
The Clippers led 25-22 after one but trailed by 10 at halftime as the Pacers dominated the rest of the way. Granger's defense against Gordon during that critical stretch stood out more than his offensive contribution.
''One of his goals should be first or second all-defensive team,'' O'Brien said. ''He's capable of it. That's a big, big factor for us. He's becoming a complete player for us because he knows how important he is to us defensively.''
Granger held Joe Johnson, Atlanta's top scorer, to 11 points on Tuesday.
''He's playing real good 'D' on the other team's best player, and he's doing it without fouling,'' Hibbert said. ''Gordon was hurting us at first. He was getting to the basket, hitting shots, and I think Danny changed that around for us.''
Hibbert had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Brandon Rush and A.J. Price each added 14 points for the Pacers (5-5).
Hibbert helped power the Pacers' rally. He missed several jump shots in the first, but scored 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the second quarter, including three dunks.
''I got the feeling that nobody could stop me down there,'' he said. ''I just wanted to get to the front of the paint and just get as big as possible and do some damage down there.''
Indiana shot 51 percent from the field, despite missing starters Darren Collison and Mike Dunleavy. Collison sat out his second straight game with a sprained ankle, while Dunleavy missed the game because his wife was in labor.
Blake Griffin and Al-Farouq Aminu had 12 points apiece for Los Angeles (1-12), which has lost eight straight games.
Indiana finished with 14 blocks and held the Clippers to a season-low 33 percent shooting.
''Something's got to change,'' Griffin said. ''We have to keep working, but we can't just keep working and keep losing. A lot of times, it's not even the physical stuff. It comes down to who wants it more. We need to find that.''
The Clippers, again missing center Chris Kaman (sprained left ankle) and guard Baron Davis (sore left knee), dropped to 0-7 on the road.
''We need to get some guys back to get some help,'' coach Vinny Del Negro said. ''They're double-teaming Blake. We're not making them pay for that at times.''
Los Angeles' oldest starter was 22-year old DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers started three rookies - guard Eric Bledsoe and forwards Griffin and Aminu.
Late in the first quarter, Gordon slashed into the lane and threw down a thunderous right-handed jam over the 7-foot-2 Hibbert to give Los Angeles a 22-16 lead. Gordon dominated early while being guarded primarily by Rush.
Indiana, behind Hibbert's offense and Granger's defense, took control in the second quarter. The Pacers closed the half with a 9-3 run. A layup by T.J. Ford with 0.2 seconds left gave Indiana a 53-43 lead at the break.
The Pacers got off to a quick start in the second half. On a fast break, Ford lobbed the ball from near the 3-point line to Josh McRoberts, who threw it down one-handed to give the Pacers a 61-44 lead. James Posey hit a 3-pointer in the final second of the third to make it 80-59. Indiana shot 63 percent in the period and went 4 for 5 from long distance.
Indiana made 14 of 26 3-pointers for the game. Granger, Rush and Posey each made four 3s.
''Our lack of offensive production got them in transition, and then they were playing draw and kick and getting behind us,'' Del Negro said.
The Pacers (5-5), who had lost their past two home games, felt they needed to beat the reeling Clippers to keep moving in a positive direction.
''We wanted to do it on a defensive end,'' Granger said. ''We got it accomplished on that end and shot the ball pretty well. We knew we really needed this one to get back to .500.''
NOTES: Indiana C Jeff Foster played for the first time this season after sitting out with a sprained right ankle. He entered late in the first quarter. ... Kaman and Davis have missed five straight games. ... Clippers G Randy Foye returned after missing 10 games with a strained left hamstring. ... Pacers F Tyler Hansbrough played after missing the last game with a sprained left ankle. ... Rush tied a career high with five blocks.