Playing without starting center Roy Hibbert, the Indiana Pacers fell behind the Los Angeles Clippers by 17 points with 5:38 to go in the fourth quarter. The Pacers used a 13-0 run to get back in the game.
"We knew we had to pressure up," said Paul George, who scored 20 points and handed out five assists. "Coach said to make a couple plays and see what happens. We got a couple steals and started going in transition. We had a lot of momentum at that point."
Three times in the closing minutes, the Pacers cut the Clippers lead to four points. But each time, All-Star guard Chris Paul replied with a basket to keep the Clippers in control. The Pacers lost 99-91, their worst home loss and just their sixth loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season.
"He's one of the best in the league," said Pacers point guard George Hill of Paul's clutch performance. "He's great at closing games and getting everyone involved. He's just a natural point guard. It's tough to stop him."
Paul finished with a game-high 29 points and 8 assists.
"Best point guard in the universe right now," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "Tip your hat to him. He played great."
Jamal Crawford added 23 points for the Clippers (42-18), the Pacific Division leaders. Blake Griffin scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, with a pair of his typical highlight worthy jams.
Without Hibbert guarding the rim for the Pacers (36-22), the Clippers opened the game with 12 straight points right near the basket.
"It's probably understated in terms of his impact," said David West, who led the Pacers with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. "I thought we had some opportunities to clean up and finish with some rebounds. He just commands so much attention around that rim."
Hibbert served a one game suspension for his part in a fourth quarter shoving match with the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Ian Mahinmi started his first game this season in place of Hibbert.
"I think I did okay," said Mahinmi, who scored five points to go with five rebounds. "I wish I would have been a little more aggressive on the offensive end."
Danny Granger scored 12 points off the bench for the Pacers in his best performance since returning from knee surgery. Granger also made his first three-pointer of the season while playing almost 19 minutes.
"It was encouraging," said Vogel. "He came out guns blazing in the first half and made some big buckets. We tried to run some (offense) through him."
Vogel says he still anticipates returning Granger to the starting lineup at some point.
"It's just going to take a while for me to get (the knee) all the way back," said Granger. "I'll be on the 20 minute plan until we say otherwise. We are constantly strengthening my leg and trying to get my power back. It just takes time."
The loss ended the Pacers five game winning streak. The Clippers have won seven of their last eight games.
The Pacers play at Toronto Friday night at 7:00 p.m. The Pacers have lost their past two games against the Raptors this season. Indiana returns home Sunday for a game against the Chicago Bulls at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN television. The Bulls are chasing the Pacers for the Central Division lead.
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