The Indiana Pacers welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to Indianapolis on Saturday in a New Year’s Eve matinee matchup.
Indiana looks for its third consecutive win and fifth in the last six games as it continues a home stretch. The Pacers are playing the third of four straight at home, a run that will include eight of 10 overall in Indianapolis.
They opened this stretch with a pair of high-scoring wins, beating Atlanta 129-114 on Tuesday, and then 135-126 against Cleveland on Thursday.
Tyrese Haliburton led the Pacers in scoring with 29 against the Cavs. He dished nine assists to maintain his NBA-leading pace of 10.2 assists per game. Buddy Hield shot 5 of 6 from 3-point range en route to 25 points, Aaron Nesmith scored 22 points and Bennedict Mathurin finished with 23 points off the bench.
Mathurin’s 17.3 points per game rank second among all rookies in the NBA.
“We’re a young team,” Mathurin said following the win over Cleveland. “But we have a lot of good players. We have a lot of vets, too, who’ve been in a lot of games. So they can help us in tough situations.”
Indiana is one of the surprises of the NBA this season thanks to a mix of youthful energy and veteran leadership. Mathurin and third-year guards Haliburton and Nesmith have blended with the experience of key veterans — seventh-year guard Hield, eighth-year center Myles Turner and eighth-year reserve spark plug TJ McConnell.
Indiana is averaging almost 115 points per game, a jump of more than three points per game compared to a season ago. The Pacers put their improved offense to the test in Saturday’s meeting with the Clippers, one of the NBA’s premier defensive teams.
Los Angeles heads into Indiana, its fifth straight road game and part of a stretch with seven of eight away from home, holding opponents to 108.8 points per game.
The Clippers are coming off a 116-110 loss in Boston, however, which dropped their record in games when an opponent scores 115 points or more to 3-8. They are 18-8 when holding opponents to 114 points or fewer, a mark that includes their 114-110 defeat of Indiana on Nov. 27.
Los Angeles played without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the previous matchup against the Pacers, but Ivica Zubac shouldered the load with a season-best 31 points and a career-high 29 rebounds.
Zubac is coming off another double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds at Boston, while Leonard and George — the Clippers’ tandem of former All-NBA honorees — scored 26 and 24 points, respectively.
Leonard returned to the lineup on Dec. 5 and played consistently with sporadic absences, missing three games. He scored 25 points or more four times while ramping up his minutes played.
Thursday’s 36:53 were the most minutes Leonard has logged on the season.
“If we want to be the last team standing we got to get better at everything — even if we were the No. 1 seed we still have to get better, each and every day,” Leonard said following Thursday’s loss, via the Los Angeles Times.
–Field Level Media