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Clippers-Pacers preview: Into The Fieldhouse

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After going 4-0 on their recent homestand, capped off by a thrilling victory over Phoenix, the Clippers hit the road on a three game trip. First stop is in Indianapolis where they'll meet the team who led the Eastern Conference in wins last season. While depleted, the Indiana Pacers won't be a pushover.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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15-5

7-14
December 10th, 2014, 4:00 PM
Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Prime Ticket, FSMW, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2014-2015)
5-1 East 5-7
10-4 West 2-7
3-2 Division 1-2
8-3 Home 4-6
7-2 Road 3-8
4-5 .500+ 2-12
11-0 .500- 5-2
9-1 L10 3-7
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Rodney Stuckey
J.J. Redick SG Solomon Hill
Matt Barnes SF Chris Copeland
Blake Griffin PF David West
DeAndre Jordan C Roy Hibbert
Advanced Stats
96.05 (15th of 30) Pace 94.33 (24th of 30)
111.1 (3rd of 30) ORtg 97.2 (28th of 30)
103.0 (12th of 30) DRtg 102.6 (11th of 30)
Injuries/Other
Chris Douglas-Roberts (Day-to-Day) Achilles
Paul George (Out) Leg
Jordan Farmar (Day-to-Day) Back
George Hill (Out) Quadriceps
Reggie Bullock (Day-to-Day) Ankle
Ian Mahinmi (Out) Foot

The Back Story (2013-2014 Season Series: Pacers 2-0 Clippers):

Date
Venue Final Clips Nation Recap ESPN Box Score
12/01/2013
Los Angeles Pacers 105, Clippers 100 Recap Box Score
01/18/2014
Indianapolis Pacers 106, Clippers 92 Recap Box Score

The Big Picture

A win is a win is a win but what a win that was on Monday night. After being up by 3 points with 90 seconds to go in regulation and the ball, the Clippers found themselves in overtime with the Phoenix Suns. After being down by 4 points with 35 seconds to go in overtime, the Clippers found themselves celebrating an unlikely win after Blake Griffin's rim-rattling three bounced up and in. It gave the Clippers their 8th win in a row, which is the second longest active streak in the NBA, and kept them within one game of the #2 seed in the Western Conference. Albeit it's early, the Clippers have found themselves in great position after their pedestrian first 12 games of the year. On paper, their schedule going forward over the next 12 days is relatively tame and by the time the team heads to San Antonio on the 22nd, the Clippers could be riding a rather extensive win streak if things break right for them.

The Antagonist

The Indiana Pacers are a scrappy team that's fighting through a rather bad stretch of injuries to start the season. We all know what happened to Paul George but George Hill has yet to play this season, Roy Hibbert has missed a couple games, and David West didn't return until six games ago. The Pacers have lost 5 straight games and their schedule doesn't get any easier even after the Clippers leave town. The Eastern Conference is bad enough that the Pacers find themselves just two games out of the 8-seed despite all their struggles and injuries. Frank Vogel is getting the most out of a random assortment of players and has kept the Pacers focused and determined despite their ailments. They lost an overtime heartbreaker in Sacramento to the Kings on Friday night only to come home and get throttled by the Atlanta Hawks. To compound the issue heading into this game, Indiana hasn't won a game this year at home against a team who is .500 or better.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics ~ Last season, the Los Angeles Clippers posted an NBA-best 109.4 Offensive Rating. This year, they rank third. However, that rating is at 111.1, which means their offense this year is producing nearly two points per 100 possessions better than last year's. The Indiana Pacers have seen their Offensive Rating slip from last year's 101.5 to this year's 97.2. They've fallen from 22nd to 28th. On the defensive side of the ball, the Clippers' mark of 103.0 is slightly worse than last year's mark of 102.1. For the Pacers, due to a host of reasons, their Defensive Rating is down from an NBA-best 96.7 last year to 102.6 so far this season.
  • The Questionable Blogger ~ The gracious Tom Lewis took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of the questions that I had for him about his team and their season. You can find his responses to those questions by clicking right here. If you'd like to follow Tom at all on Twitter, you can do so by going to his account (@IndyCornrows) and clicking the follow button. It's that simple.
  • Schedule ~ After winning all four of their games on their most recent homestand, the Clippers now hit the road for three straight against Eastern Conference opponents. In fact, this game signals the beginning of a 5-game stretch against Eastern Conference squads. Despite the four game homestand, this three game road trip marks the end of a stretch where the Clippers will have played 10 out of 14 games on the road. They won a franchise record 6 games on their last road trip and will look to continue that success away from STAPLES Center. On Indiana's side of the coin, this is their second straight contest at home. They lost on Monday night against Atlanta in a game that the Pacers only led for 17 total seconds. Indiana has lost five games in a row and another loss would tie their season high mark of six in a row. Pacers are dangerous, though. After all, they have notched wins at Miami, at Chicago, and at Dallas already. Unfortunately, their schedule after this game doesn't get much easier with such matchups as at Toronto, vs Portland, at Clippers, and at Denver in their next five games.
  • Doc v Vogel ~ This is an interesting coaching matchup to say the least. It features two guys who pride themselves on coaching a team that plays tough, hard-nosed defense. Rivers and Vogel are similar in that they get the most out of certain players and give themselves a better chance than people thought. Rivers led a team with four undrafted players to the playoffs in Orlando before winning a title in Boston with veteran guys. Vogel has turned the Pacers into a really good team year-in and year-out. He worked his way up from being a video coordinator in Boston to then being an assistant coach in Philadelphia and then in Indiana where he eventually took over for Jim O'Brien. A Frank Vogel team has never missed the playoffs. While this year might hold a different story for Vogel and the Pacers, the coaching battle on the sidelines tonight should be one to watch between two of the best in-game managers and two of of the best off-court managers.
  • Chris Paul George Hill ~ Word games are fun, name games are better. Chris Paul, Paul George, and George Hill. Mash them together and you get Chris Paul George Hill. Anyways, Chris Paul's (one of) the best point guard(s) in the NBA while Paul George solidified himself as one of the best two-way players in basketball last year before his horrific injury playing for Team USA this summer. Paul George is a California guy and his two preferred destinations on draft night were either the Clippers or to play with Danny Granger. He got his wish, at least for a little while, and has excelled. George Hill is also out with an injury but figures to be back sometime in the next couple weeks. They could use his perimeter defense and overall leadership.
  • X-Factor ~ Indiana's been getting good contributions from Solomon Hill for a while now and perimeter wing players have given the Clippers problems for nearly the entire season thus far. However, his inclusion into the starting lineup might limit his X-Factorness. Therefore, the Clippers must keep an eye on the ever-dangerous C.J. Miles. His penchant to get red hot out of nowhere is something the Clippers must curtail. Other Indiana X-Factor candidates: Luis Scola, who can step out and hit any mid-range jumper consistently, and C.J. Watson, who came back almost ten days ago, figure to be pains in the rear. Either way, the Clippers have to pay attention to some of these guys and prevent Indiana from stealing the game thanks to one of these unsung players.
  • Jordan v Hibbert ~ DeAndre Jordan averaged 11.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in the two meetings against Indiana last year. Roy Hibbert, Indiana's man in the middle, averaged 11.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks last year against the Clippers. While Jordan seemingly won the individual battle, Hibbert's team won the war. Despite his size, Hibbert's never been the best of rebounders. His career high in Total Rebound Percentage came way back in 2011-2012 (16.6 percent) and barely tops DeAndre Jordan's career worst in that category (16.5 percent, 2010-2011). Both men patrol the paint with relentless abandon and Hibbert's ability to smartly skirt the Defensive Three Second Violation on a constant basis should earn him some praise. The Clippers will need a good performance out of their big man to stifle Indiana's big man. If Hibbert dominates the paint in this game, especially defensively, then the Clippers might be in for a bigger fight than they had anticipated.
  • BG32 fires a .45-caliber ~ What a game, huh? Let's get some tidbits out of the way. Blake Griffin was the first player since Kevin Love to score 45+ points on 24 or fewer shots. Love did it on December 22nd, 2013 in Los Angeles against the Clippers. So the Clippers have been involved in each of the last two occurrences. And won both games in overtime. Griffin's stunning three to win was the 7th buzzer-beater winner in the NBA this year but just the first from beyond the arc. It was also his first career buzzer-beater. He's just the 3rd player in the last ten years to score 45+ points and hit a buzzer-beater in the same game. The other two were Dwyane Wade and Gilbert Arenas. Beyond the raw point total, though, this was one of Griffin's most efficient nights. He was 8-for-12 inside 8 feet, 4-for-9 from 16-to-24 feet, 2-for-2 beyond the arc, and 15-for-17 from the free throw line. The 45-point performance was the 5th 40+ game of his career. All five have been at STAPLES Center. His career high 47-point game came against his upcoming opponent, the Indiana Pacers. Video of Blake Griffin's game-winning three against Phoenix is at the bottom of this preview.
  • The Injuries ~ It sucks to talk about injuries but this game lends itself to talking about them. There's no timetable on Paul George's return after his gruesome leg break and that really just sucks. Not just for the Indiana Pacers but also for basketball. One of the bright young stars in the league is missed but the games go on. The Pacers will also be without George Hill, a good defensive lead guard and a solid offensive option, and Ian Mahinmi, a sturdy and reliable backup center who can do some good things for his club. There's no telling who on the Clippers will be out but, as of right now, three guys are listed as day-to-day until anything changes. The Clippers desperately need Jordan Farmar back for his poise and control on the second unit because Jared Cunningham has been less than ideal leading the charge there. Reggie Bullock's injury has left the Clippers to play a front line of Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, and Spencer Hawes in the second quarter of basketball games and each time it's looked ugly. It is what it is and the Clippers are treading water for right now but reinforcements would be greatly appreciated sometime soon.
  • Connections ~ Chris Paul and David West will always be connected thanks to their time playing together in New Orleans with the Hornets. C.J. Watson and Matt Barnes were teammates for one year in Golden State as members of the Warriors. Watson also spent some time with former Clipper Corey Maggette on the Warriors. Ian Mahinmi played with former Clippers Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and Steve Novak over two years in Dallas. Doc Rivers and Frank Vogel each have coached Gerald Green in the NBA and each of the two coaches have spent time on the coaching staff with the Boston Celtics. Vogel as an assistant and Doc as a head coach.
  • Wikipedia Entry ~ Project PACER was a program in the mid-1970's in which small hydrogen or fission bombs were detonated underground to create an energy source. The problem with keeping the project running was that it required a rather large and never-ending supply of nuclear bombs. The detonations took place in Los Alamos, New Mexico. In auto racing, a pace car limits the speed at which competing drivers on a racetrack can race at while a caution is in progress. The first use of a pace car in auto racing was in 1911 during the inaugural Indianapolis 500. Ray Harroun won the race with an average speed of 74.6 miles per hour and led 88 of the 200 laps. The average speed of the 2014 Indy 500 winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, was 186.6 miles per hour.
  • Indy Cornrows ~ To get the Indiana Pacers perspective on the game, you can head on over there and discuss it with them.