There were a myriad of parallels between the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Clippers heading into Tuesday night's meeting between the two teams. Each had the fourth-best record in their respective conference. Each was a mere half game ahead of the fifth place team -- bearing in mind that the difference between fourth and fifth is home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Each had started the season hot, before a mid-season swoon that brought their early expectations back down to earth. Each had acquired a shooting guard at the trade deadline to help with a playoff push.
And each was badly in need of a win Tuesday heading into the final third of the season.
But only one team could come away with the victory, and on Tuesday, it was the Pacers. On a night when starters David West, Paul George and Darren Collison shot a combined 3-13 and scored just 14 points between them, the bench, with a major contribution from Leandro Barbosa in his first game with the team, scored 50 points to carry Indiana to a 102-89 victory.
Barbosa (12), George Hill (15) and Tyler Hansbrough (17) were responsible for 44 points, making 18-27 shots, including four three pointers. Hill shot 6-7 overall, including 3-3 from deep, for 15 points. (That's 15 points in seven shots -- without taking a free throw.)
The Clippers led early 16-10 -- then Hill and Hansbrough checked in, and it was all Indiana the rest of the half. The Pacers' bench led a 21-6 run spanning the first and second quarters, and Indiana never trailed again.
At the beginning of the third quarter, with the starters for each team back in the floor, the Clippers mounted another charge. A 9-2 run to open the quarter cut an eight point halftime deficit to just one, and a few moments later the score was tied at 62. But the Pacers immediately reeled off 11 straight and maintained a double digit lead the rest of the game.
In addition to the bench discrepancy (a battle Indiana won 50-23), the Pacers won the game at two lines: the three-point and free throw. Indiana made 24-26 free throws; the Clippers were 9-20. Indiana shot 8-14 from deep, while Los Angeles made just 6-22. The fact that Indiana made a higher percentage of their three-pointers than L.A. made from the free throw line tells you a lot about the game.
The Pacers were led in scoring by Danny Granger with 25, to supplement the bench production. For the Clippers, Blake Griffin had 23 and Chris Paul 16. Nick Young, acquired at the trade deadline, scored 13 in his first start for the Clips.
With the win, the Pacers move to 26-18 on the season and hold onto the fourth-best record in the East. The Clippers drop to 26-19, but also stay in fourth place, percentage points ahead of Dallas.