NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, February 28th
(All times Eastern)
Los Angeles Clippers (41-18) at Indiana Pacers (36-21), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The hard-charging Indiana Pacers will be down a man when
they host the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday in a showdown between playoff-
bound teams at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Pacers center Roy Hibbert will serve a one-game suspension for his involvement
in a melee with the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night. Hibbert got into a
shoving match with Warriors All-Star center David Lee late in the fourth
quarter and several other players stepped in.
Hibbert's teammate, guard Lance Stephenson, was issued a $35,000 fine from the
league for his role during the fracas, which spilled into the front row of the
Fieldhouse. Hibbert is expected to pay Stephenson's fine, a gesture Pacers GM
Kevin Pritchard tweeted was "amazing."
The game itself was an exciting one as David West totaled 28 points and Paul
George added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Central-leading Pacers, who
have won five in a row and 10 of 12 games. George Hill chipped in 23 points
with six assists and Hibbert finished with 13 points, nine boards and five
blocks before getting ejected.
Pacers star forward Danny Granger played his second game of the season after
missing time with a balky knee, posting five points in his home debut. He has
played no more than 19 minutes in each of his first two outings and scored two
points in Saturday's road win at Detroit.
"Every minute that he's out there he's going to get more comfortable," Indiana
coach Frank Vogel said in regards to Granger. "It's going to take time."
Indiana has won its last five games by double digits and hasn't allowed 100
points in the last six. The Pacers are second in the NBA in defense, allowing
89.6 ppg, and sit second in the East standings, one-half game ahead of the
idle New York Knicks.
The Pacers are unbeaten in their last four home games and own a 24-5 record at
the Fieldhouse this season. They will face a Clippers team ranked ninth in the
NBA with 100.5 ppg.
"Low turnovers, transition defense. They're the best in the league in stealing
the basketball and forcing turnovers," Vogel said of the Clippers. "When they
get out in the open court, what's their nickname, Lob City, so we got to
sprint back ... If you help at all they just lob it up to the rim and they got
guys that can go get it. If you don't help enough, Chris Paul burns you. Maybe
the most challenging pick-and-roll attack in the NBA."
Los Angeles, third in the West, just went 2-1 on a three-game homestand and
recorded a 106-84 triumph over the Charlotte Bobcats Tuesday from Staples
Center. Blake Griffin had 24 points and reserve Matt Barnes added 17 points,
seven assists and four steals in the win, L.A.'s second in a row and sixth in
seven tries. Caron Butler had 16 points and Paul was held to seven, but handed
out 13 assists.
"We did a good job after that initial first quarter," Griffin said."When we
get out and get easy buckets it gets us going."
Griffin has scored 17 or more points in the last seven games, averaging 19.7
ppg in that time. He has posted seven or more rebounds and two-plus assists in
each game over the stretch. Butler has been playing with ease lately, too,
posting 16.0 ppg in the past five games.
In injury news for the Clippers, reserve guards Eric Bledsoe (calf) and Jamal
Crawford (personal) did not play in Tuesday's win. Bledsoe is day-to-day and
Crawford, who's second on the team with 16.7 ppg, is probable Thursday.
Crawford's wife gave birth to the couple's daughter Monday.
The Clippers, who dished out a season-high 34 assists on the Bobcats, will put
a three-game road winning streak on the line and are 18-12 away from home.
They will visit Cleveland Friday. L.A. has 28 wins this season by 10 or more
points, 11 of which have been by 20 or more.
Clippers veteran guard Chauncey Billups played a season-high 24:37 the
previous time out and is slowly getting back to playing shape. He is averaging
9.4 points and 2.4 assists this season.
"I was finally at a point where I can increase my minutes a little bit with
the exception of back-to-backs where they said they're going to keep me to
around 20," Billups told the Clips' website. "But now, in games like (Tuesday)
with a day in between, I can push my minutes up. I am going to keep pushing it
up all the time and get ready for that run."
The run continues Thursday in Indiana as both teams will meet for the first
time since the Pacers' 102-89 home win last March 20. The Pacers have won four
of the last six matchups between the teams and three in a row as the host.
02/28 10:31:57 ET