The Clippers were up by 17 points over the Indiana Pacers with less than six minutes to play. Players were smiling on the sidelines, dancing to the music blaring and getting ready to celebrate a nice road victory.
Less than three minutes later, the Clippers found themselves fighting to hang on, as the Pacers ripped off a 13-0 run to cut the lead to four.
In situations like this, the Clippers lean on point guard Chris Paul to make things happen, and Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, he didn't let his team down in a 99-91 victory.
"I just love to see him take over games like that," Chauncey Billups said. "That's either something you're blessed to have, or you're sorry you don't have it."
Paul drained a jump shot over Tyler Hansbrough and got to the rim for an acrobatic right-handed finish. Then with the lead at four and less than a minute to go, Paul drove past Indiana's Lance Stephenson, simultaneously ending Indiana's momentum and chances for a comeback.
Paul led the Clippers with 29 points, scoring the team's final eight. He also added eight assists and six rebounds.
"You've got to hate to lose," Paul said. "... At some point, you have to slow everything down and say, 'It's winning time.'"
The Clippers extended their lead to 17 by swarming on defense and getting easy baskets inside and in transition, but after the game, there was a feeling things could've been easier.
"We made it a little more difficult on our selves," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Part of the problem was the Clippers' defensive intensity let up for a moment, allowing the Pacers to get hot from 3-point range in the fourth quarter during the 13-0 run.
But the Clippers also couldn't convert on what Paul called "wide open" looks from 3-point range, where the team hit just 4-of-23.
"Man, we got some great looks," Billups said. "We executed our game plan offensively and defensively to a T from the start of the game. We just couldn't get a shot to fall.
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Paul's magic prevents Clippers' lead from disappearing
Orange County Register | Mar 1