Pacers-Clippers Preview

(AP) — 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.