This is no April Fool's Day joke, but still count me as one of the surprised. I did not expect that the Pacers would be able to build a 24-point third quarter lead against the Clippers in LA, and I certainly did not expect that they could hold on when the Clips came within 2 points with more than a minute to go in the game.
Sure, the Pacers had won 4 games in a row (including 3 on the road) and the Clips had been sluggish in recent losses to the Spurs and Rockets, but this was a statement game for them in LA as they tried to reach 50 wins for the first timein franchise history.
The main reason the Pacers managed to get this one was the big fella, Roy Hibbert, who has been playing his best ball of the season -- finally. Roy put up 26 points and 10 rebounds on 11-14 shooting before fouling out, and was instrumental in the Pacers jumping out to an early lead. I guess he was atoning for missing their last encounter with the Clips when he was suspended for tossing Steph Curry around like a ragged doll -- a game that the Pacers lost.
Paul George chipped in with 23, 10 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals; David West had 16, including a cold-blooded fadeaway in the face of Blake Griffin that added a bit of breathing room when the game got too close for comfort; and George Hill and Lance Stephenson had 13 apiece.
This was the Pacers' 5th consecutive win, which, believe it or not, ties a season high that matches a streak that ended in Feb when the Pacers swept the only back-to-back-to-back game of the entire NBA season. The Pacers would go on to lose the next two, to Brooklyn and Toronto at home, in disappointing fashion, so let's home things will be different this time.
Unfortunately, their next game is against the Thunder, who beat the Pacers 104-93 in OKC in December. I hate this matchup for more reasons than there are letters in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but perhaps the Pacers can surprise me again and get this one so they can stay within reach of the Knicks for the second seed. That said, right now the third seed means a date with the Chicago Bulls, while the second seed means a date with the Boston Celtics. I'm sure the Pacers would prefer the former than the latter, though it could also mean starting the second round on the road at Madison Square Garden.