The Los Angeles Clippers extended their winning streak to eight games in emphatic fashion on Monday night, defeating the Indiana Pacers 151-127 while setting a franchise record for points in a game. Led by vintage performances from James Harden and Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers put on an offensive showcase as they dominated the struggling Pacers.
Harden’s 35 Points Powers Clippers’ Historic Outburst
Harden was the catalyst behind the Clippers’ eruption, pouring in 35 points on 12-18 shooting along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. The 33-year-old showed flashes of his MVP self, nailing a season-high six three-pointers including four straight during a key stretch in the fourth quarter. His scoring outburst propelled the Clippers to their highest point total since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1984.
The Beard had high praise for his team’s performance after the game:
“It was incredible. Everybody was just clicking on all cylinders – offensively, defensively. We were helping each other, being in the right spots on both ends of the basketball court. And I think we’re building really good camaraderie amongst our team, and it showed tonight,” Harden said.
Leonard added 24 points of his own while Paul George chipped in with 17 points and 6 assists for L.A. The Clippers shot a blistering 68.4% from the field as a team, including 21-38 (55%) from three-point range. They also recorded 36 assists on 55 made field goals in a fantastic display of offensive execution.
Meanwhile, Tyrese Haliburton led Indiana with 24 points and 12 assists as the Pacers dropped their fourth straight game.
Winning Streak Has Clippers Eyeing Top Spot in West
At 4th in the Western Conference entering Monday night, the Clippers appear poised to move up in the standings on the back of their eight-game winning streak. They now stand just 1.5 games behind West leaders Denver and only trail 2nd place Memphis by half a game.
Doc Rivers’ squad seems to have fully clicked since acquiring Harden and others at the trade deadline. Their much-improved chemistry was on full display against Indiana as they raced out to 75 first half points before exploding for a franchise-record setting 76 points in the second half.
“We’re jelling really well right now and just having fun playing together,” said George after the Clippers’ statement win. “We know we can compete with anybody when we play like this.”
If Leonard, George and Harden can stay healthy alongside a strong supporting cast featuring Norman Powell and Ivica Zubac, the Clippers should remain a force to be reckoned with heading into the playoffs.
Pacers’ Defensive Struggles Continue
While offense certainly wasn’t the issue for Indiana, their defensive deficiencies were once again on full display. The Pacers allowed Los Angeles to shoot nearly 70% from the field overall, struggling to contain dribble penetration and leaving Clippers shooters wide open from three.
First year head coach Rick Carlisle bemoaned his team’s lackluster effort following the lopsided defeat.
“Our readiness tonight was disappointing and our competitive spirit was disappointing,” Carlisle said.
The postgame comments echo similar sentiments Carlisle has expressed over the course of the Pacers’ four-game slide. Indiana has given up an average of 124 points per game during the losing streak, dropping them to 25th in the league in defensive rating on the season.
Unless the Pacers can fix their defensive issues quickly, they appear destined to miss the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Indiana currently sits 13th at 16-18, two games behind the final play-in tournament spot.
What This Means Moving Forward
For the Clippers
- They have emerged as legitimate title contenders after trading for Harden
- Offense appears fixed with Harden running the show next to Kawhi and PG13
- Chemistry and camaraderie at an all time high
- Well positioned to finish top 4 in loaded West
- Building momentum at the right time heading into playoffs
For the Pacers
- Defense remains a glaring weakness
- Need major roster overhaul to properly rebuild
- Could be among most active sellers at trade deadline
- Players like Haliburton and Mathurin provide hope for future
- Long road back to contention after years of mediocrity
The Clippers will look to extend their winning streak to nine games when they host the Rockets on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the reeling Pacers will seek to end their skid on Friday against the Nets.
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