The Clippers beat the Indiana Pacers 139-133 in an afternoon Martin Luther King Jr. day game. Los Angeles broke out of a shooting slump of late to convert 54.9 percent of their shots from the field, 50 percent from three, and 86.1 percent from the free throw line.
The Clippers got out to an early 18-9 lead, which forced the Pacers to call a timeout just over five minutes into the game. In truth, the effectiveness of early game production may be the most potent lesson from today’s game. The game is simply more forgiving when you’re defending a lead, as opposed to when you’re trying to dig back from a deficit.
To wit, Amir Coffey must be given even more credit. Coffey’s offensive production of late continued in the first quarter of this afternoon’s game. Registering 12 points on 4-of-5 from the field and 3-of-3 from three in that period, Coffey’s play has been a mid-season revelation and perhaps the most apparent silver lining of Los Angeles’ recent slump.
The entire Clippers squad shot 59.1 percent in the first quarter, including 55.6 percent from three. The defense was similarly sharp throughout the first half, as they held the Pacers unit to just 43.5 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from three.
Forty seconds into the second half, Nic Batum finally took the lid off the rim with his first points in this game: a backdoor cut to two hand flush. Unluckily for the Pacers, when it rains, it pours for “the French Knight,” who proceeded to make his next three baskets (all from long range), en route to 32 points in the game. Batum’s seven threes this game led a hot Clippers squad, who shot 18-of-36 from deep this afternoon.
Marcus Morris Sr. also erupted out of a shooting slump that has plagued him lately, as he registered 21 points on 61.5 percent shooting.
A three from Terance Mann with 2:31 left in the third quarter didn’t just trigger Lawler’s Law, but also gave the Clippers 100 points in under three quarters. For attentive fans, this is a mark that the Clippers have reached 65 times in franchise history and a particularly popular portent for Clippers fans. Why? Of those 65 games, the Clippers have only lost once.
A fourth quarter run, led by Chris Duarte, Domantas Sabonis, and a dynamic offensive rebounding Pacers team, threatened to make that record 64-2, however. The Clippers lead, as large as 19 points at its apex, was reduced to just seven with 7:!2 to go in the game. Duarte’s 24 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals off the bench were joined by Sabonis’s 19 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists and Caris Levert’s 26 points and nine rebounds.
In response, the Clippers went back to the most faithful tools in their arsenal this season: free throw shooting and defense. This, combined with some more clutch shooting from Batum, gave Clippers fans a bit more faith in an otherwise uncomfortably nervous fourth quarter.