The LA Clippers finally returned home Sunday night after a 6-game road trip. But as is often the case, the first game back after a long road trip isn’t always the most comfortable.
Take this FWIW but the energy level of people traveling on a beat can mirror the team they cover. And tonight, I was exhausted.
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) December 5, 2016
The Clippers were back home, but their opponent had been on the West Coast longer than they have been. The Indiana Pacers were blown out in Portland Wednesday night, but they had three days off before Sunday night’s game. The Clippers played in Cleveland on Thursday night and in New Orleans on Friday night before traveling back to the Pacific Time Zone. The Pacers had beaten the Clippers by 21 points in Indiana last Sunday, and they were getting SF Paul George and reserve wing C.J. Miles back in the lineup at STAPLES Center.
Now, none of these facts serve as excuses. The Pacers swept the Clippers, beating them 111-102 while leading by as many as 20 points.
The Clippers led by as many as 15 points in the 1st quarter, with SG J.J. Redick getting off to a hot start by making 3-of-5 threes for 9 points. The Clippers led 28-17 at the end of the 1st quarter.
The Pacers made their first big run of the game in the 2nd quarter, erasing a 13-point Clippers lead with a 23-8 run starting with 10:40 left in the 1st half. During that stretch, Clippers PF Blake Griffin scored 6 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field, while the rest of the Clippers made only 1-of-12 from the field. Indiana also kept the Clippers off the FT line during that stretch, with C Myles Turner making 3-of-6 in the 2nd quarter and the Pacers making 7-of-10 during the run. LA regained the lead after two more threes from Redick, who scored a game-high 15 points in the 1st half, making 5-of-9 threes.
Clippers are home after 6-game road trip that included a season-worst offensive performance vs Pacers, tonight's opponent. What must change?
— ClipperBlog (@clipperblog) December 4, 2016
LA’s 52-48 halftime lead gave way during a brutal 3rd quarter that saw the Pacers jump out to a 19-2 run before LA made a FG. Pacers PF Thaddeus Young led the run with 8 points on 3-of-3 FGs, while LA missed their first 10 shots of the 2nd half. Indiana shot 61.9 percent from the field in the 3rd quarter, while LA shot only 26.3 percent from the field, with more turnovers (6) than made baskets (5) in the period.
Indiana took an 83-69 lead into the 4th quarter, and that lead jumped to 20 after a Miles three from Rodney Stuckey made the lead 91-71 with 9:51 left in the game. From LA’s biggest lead at 15 with 30 seconds left in the 1st quarter through Indiana’s largest lead at 20 with 9:50 left to play, Indiana outscored LA 79-44.
“I think the second group didn’t come in with great energy,” Doc Rivers said after the game. “I got frustrated because they got good shots but they just didn’t fall. The six-minute stretch to start the second quarter hurt us and then I thought the first six minutes in the third quarter killed us. I thought those two stretches were the difference in the game.”
LA made it somewhat respectable at the end, cutting Indiana’s lead to 104-100 with 1:26 left after a follow dunk by DeAndre Jordan, who drew a foul from George on the play. Chris Paul scored 12 of LA’s 29 points during the 29-13 run to close the gap. But Jordan missed the FT, Griffin missed the tip-in, and George would put the game on ice with a three-pointer with 1:00 left.
Indiana had 7 players in double figures, including all 5 starters and reserves Stuckey (16 points) and Miles (12 points). They made 8 more FTs than the Clippers, led by Turner, who made 6-of-10 FTs. The 4-man Indiana bench lineup of Stuckey, Miles, former fill-in starter Glenn Robinson III, and Al Jefferson compiled a net rating of 48.2 and outscored LA 30-18 in 11 minutes, the best of Indiana’s 6 4-man lineups that played at least 10 minutes.
The Clippers really struggled to protect the ball. They had 20 turnovers and only 19 assists, negating their 51-36 advantage on the boards. The bench unit of Raymond Felton, Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce, and Marreese Speights was disastrous on a night where the starters were inconsistent, compiling a net rating of -43.8 and getting outscored 16-9 in only 6 minutes.
At least now, LA gets some rest. For the first time since October 28-29, the Clippers get two days off in a row before getting a visit from the Golden State Warriors, Indiana’s opponent on Monday night. The Clippers will even get two more days off after hosting the Warriors before they see the Pelicans again on Friday night.
“We’ve been talking about this rest day for a few weeks, it’s like a vacation we have waited for,” said Griffin, who finished with game-highs of 24 points and 16 rebounds. “It’s definitely much-needed and hopefully we can take advantage of it before two more days off after Wednesday’s game, so it’s huge for us.”