Short-handed Clippers hold off Pacers comeback for 91-89 win
Shortly after Los Angeles fended off a late charge for a 91-89 victory at Indiana, Griffin used his Twitter account to say he regretted being sent home after breaking his shooting hand by punching a Clippers staff member during a road trip. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, which could keep him out of the Feb. 14 All-Star Game in Toronto if he is to be chosen as backup.
''A situation among friends escalated and I regret the way I handled myself towards someone I care about,'' Griffin wrote. ''I want to apologize to the Clippers organization, my teammates and the fans for creating a distraction. I am working with the team on a resolution and getting back in the game as soon as possible.''
Playing without Griffin, All-Star guard Chris Paul scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half and made a 19-foot pullup jumper with 33.7 seconds left that proved to be the difference. J.J. Redick added 19 points.
The Clippers (29-16) desperately needed a victory to create some semblance of normalcy on an otherwise bizarre day.
Just hours before playing the game, word leaked about the incident that led to Griffin's injury and the man he punched, Matias Testi, one of Griffin's friends. The Clippers later confirmed the injury and coach Doc Rivers acknowledged before the game that Griffin could face additional punishment.
''With all the stuff in the last 48 hours, we always say it's the game that brings a team back,'' Rivers said. ''You could feel that (Tuesday). That was a good win for our team.''
For the first 2 1/2 quarters, it looked like the distraction had taken a toll on the Clippers.
But late in the third quarter, the defense buckled down and held the Pacers scoreless for nearly eight minutes as Los Angeles scored 13 straight points to take an 81-72 lead midway through the fourth. The Clippers never trailed again thanks largely to Paul, who made three 3-pointers and was 8 of 13 from the field in the second half and finished with six rebounds, seven assists and one steal.
''It's tough, I don't know much about it,'' Paul said, noting he had spoken to Griffin once since the incident in Toronto. ''But for me, I've got to lead this team. We've got games to win.''
Paul did everything he could to make sure the Clippers did win even though it wasn't easy.
Paul George had 31 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Pacers (23-22) and spurred a late 14-7 run that got the Pacers within 88-86 with 1:43 left in the game. His 3 with 28 seconds left made it 91-89 and after forcing a turnover with 2.1 seconds to go, Indiana had a chance to force overtime or win the game.
Instead, Jamal Crawford deflected the inbound pass from the frontcourt to the backcourt on the opposite side, running off all but 0.3 seconds. George Hill then tried to lob the ball into the paint, but it bounced off the backboard all the way past midcourt before the Clippers touched it to run out the clock.
''We had lot of plays that we wish we could have taken back, just poor execution, poor spacing,'' George said after the Pacers' third straight loss. ''We just did a terrible job during that (eight-minute) stretch.''
Myles Turner averaged 20.5 points on Indiana's most recent four-game road trip and was even better in the first half Tuesday when he scored 16 points and made all seven of his shots. He didn't score in the second half. After the game, coach Frank Vogel said he plans to increase Turner's workload.
After giving up 100 points in four of the previous five games, Redick acknowledged the Clippers had taken a step back defensively. After holding the Pacers to 17 fourth-quarter points, 5 of 16 on 3s and forcing 17 turnovers, Redick said it was ''good to see.''
Vogel spent the offseason designing an offense for small-ball. Now, he's contemplating going big more often. Vogel started the game with a more traditional lineup and acknowledged before the game that he would consider playing that way more often the rest of this season.
Clippers: Avoided a season sweep in this series ... The only other player to score in double figures was Wesley Johnson, who had 15 points. ... Los Angeles was 15 of 37 on 3s.
Pacers: Played at home for only the fourth time in January and the first time in 11 days. ... Center Ian Mahinmi returned to action but was limited to short spurts as he continues to recover from a sprained left ankle. He still scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds. ... Hill made three 3s to tie Troy Murphy (419) for No. 6 on the franchise's career list. Hill had 15 points.
Clippers visit Atlanta on Wednesday.
Pacers host Atlanta on Thursday.