The Clippers started off the game with strong process on offense, but were simply unable to hit shots. Gallo and Shamet, in particular, were cold, and missing lots of open looks. On the other end, however, the Clippers looked great, absolutely shutting down the Pacers offense and forcing them into a ton of misses. Most of the way through the 1st, both teams were shooting 5-17 from the field, but the Clippers had the edge due to free throws and threes. The Clippers’ bench got the offense going, especially with the classic Lou to Trez connection. The Pacers continued to misfire, and the Clippers lead was 25-16 at the end of the first quarter.
The Clippers’ offense continued to roll in the 2nd quarter, with Montrezl Harrell dominating the Pacers’ frontline. He had offensive rebounds, thunderous dunks, and a couple of his pet hook shots. Unfortunately, the Clippers’ defense slipped, with Doug McDermott repeatedly beating Wilson Chandler to spots backdoor and off screens. The lead shrunk a bit, and the starters returned, to mixed results. Shai was everywhere on both ends of the court wreaking havoc, but the Clippers as a whole could not take advantage, and their lead continued to decline. However, Gallo finally hit a couple threes before halftime, and the Clippers went into the break with a 55-49 lead.
The Clippers offense broke out of its funk to start the 3rd, spearheaded by Shai. The rookie was able to penetrate the paint at will and create easy looks for teammates. He also pushed the pace in transition, getting the Clippers nice looks in the fastbreak as well. After a rough first half, Zubac also came to life, converting a lob dunk as well as a couple nice lay-ups inside. Towards the end of the quarter, as the bench came in, the Pacers began to look tired, and the Clippers finally opened up a double-digit lead for the first time.
The 4th quarter began choppily, with lots of fouls and a slow tempo. This pace favored the Pacers, who inched back in after briefly falling behind by 17. The Clippers’ offense got stagnant, with little ball movement or player movement, and the Pacers pressed on. Tyreke Evans attacked the basket relentlessly, while Doug McDermott chipped in with a couple of nice floaters and jumpers. The Clippers hung on to a lead through a couple big threes, one by Gallo, and a stepback by Beverley late in the shot clock. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander checked in halfway through the quarter, and Doc’s faith in the rookie was rewarded by two dazzling offensive plays: a Euro-step scything through three defenders, and a ridiculous scoop layup over the outstretched arm of Wes Matthews. Evans continued to press the attack, but Lou hit a midrange jumper with 40 seconds left, and then Pat broke Bojan’s ankles en route to a floater with 15 seconds left, icing the game. The Pacers did their best, but the Clippers ultimately hung on for a 115-109 win.
- Pat Beverley comes up big late – on offense: Pat Beverley has been a force for the Clippers all season, particularly in the past three-four months, but the bulk of his contributions have come through leadership and defense. Sure, he’s hit threes, but he hasn’t been relied upon for big buckets. Tonight, he came through with two, nailing that stepback three and game-sealing floater mentioned above. He looks more confident than ever on the offensive end, and quicker too. As always, he contributed in other ways outside scoring, chipping in four rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a block together with his 10 points (all of which came in the 2nd half). To top it all off, he even had a nice celebration after the floater, presumably to show Lou Williams how to celebrate (Lou’s lack of celebrating has become somewhat of a joke in the Clippers’ locker room). Pat is great, and he’s a huge reason this team has had so much success down the stretch.
- Gallo and Trez carry the offense early: For once, Lou Williams did not lead the Clippers’ offensive charge in this one. While Lou did dish out 9 assists, his shot was clearly off, and he was bothered by the Pacers’ size. Not to worry, as Montrezl Harrell stepped up early, scoring 16 points in the 1st half to keep the Clippers afloat. Then, when the Pacers focused in on stopping his roles, Gallo took over the reins of the offense, nailing several beautiful stepback jumpers and cashing in on open threes. While neither guy did much down the stretch, the Clippers would not have been in a winning position without their carrying the offense earlier.
- Zubac bounces back: Ivica Zubac had a really tough first half. While he played his usual solid defense and made life tough for the Pacers’ big men, they smothered him on the other end, and he had several turnovers where he gave the ball away or the ball was virtually taken out of his hands. Instead of getting down, Zu just redoubled his efforts, and played very well in the 3rd quarter, helping the Clippers expand their lead. He held onto the ball better under the basket, and was more patient going up for shots instead of rushing them. He even had a nice lob dunk courtesy of Shai. Zu’s offense is clearly struggling due to his injured hands, but his resilience has been impressive, as has his defense and rebounding.
- Shai. Gilgeous. Alexander: I think I’ve written about Shai in about 80% of my recent previews and recaps, but he deserves all the praise. He’s playing the game at a wonderful pace, and knows exactly when to push the ball in transition (had a layup after a made basket where he raced down the court before the Pacers got back) and when to settle things down. His outside shot continues to improve, his finishing remains absurdly good, and he’s getting increasingly skilled at playing defense without fouling. The growth is just astounding.
The Clippers’ next game is Friday, when they finally leave the friendly confines of Staples Center for the road. Fortunately, their first stop is in Cleveland against one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Cavs.