Mar 17, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) dunks against the Houston Rockets during the first quarter at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

Game Preview: Los Angeles Clippers @ Indiana Pacers

Los Angeles (26-18, won last 2) @ Indiana (25-18, lost last 2)

Key Stats

Los Angeles

* 97.27 points per game (12th in the NBA) vs. 95.18 points allowed per game (13th)

* 44.9% FG (13th) vs. 44.1% FG allowed (12th)

* 42.77 rpg (12th) vs. 39.41 rebounds allowed (2nd)

* 20.84 apg (15th) vs. 13.52 TO pg (3rd)

Indiana

* 95.35 ppg (16th) vs. 92.91 points allowed (8th)

* 43.1% FG (26th) vs. 43% FG allowed (8th)

* 43.49 rppg (5th) vs. 42.65 rebounds allowed (21st)

* 18.02 appg (30th) vs. 14.3 TO pg (10th)

Position-by-position Matchups

PG-Chris Paul vs. Darren Collison

SG-Randy Foye vs. Paul George

SF-Caron Butler vs. Danny Granger

PF-Blake Griffin vs. David West

C-DeAndre Jordan vs. Roy Hibbert

Key Reserves

Los Angeles-Nick Young, Mo Williams, Kenyon Martin, Bobby Simmons

Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, Leandro Barbosa, George Hill, Dahntay Jones, Lou Amundson

Injuries of note

Los Angeles-None

Indiana-Jeff Foster (back, out)

Breakdown:

The Pacers are now 2-6 in their brutal 9-game stretch vs. playoff (or near-playoff) teams that started March 5 with a game vs. Chicago. Their only two wins came at home last week vs. Portland and Philadelphia in successive contests. But those wins were of course flanked by losing streaks of four and two. Tonight Indiana gets a Los Angeles Clippers team that is currently fighting for a #2 or #3 seed in the West, and has very little room for error against beatable opponents. For Los Angeles, the Pacers unfortunately fall into that category. With blue chippers Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and a bench filled with serviceable veterans, “Lob City” commands a sizable advantage on paper. They take care of the basketball better than almost any team in the league, play high octane offense and tough post defense. Roy Hibbert, in a deep funk as it is, struggles mightily against physical post defenders, and the Griffin/Jordan/Kenyon Martin trio is just that; all can leap, block shots and play adequate help side defense, so the Pacers may have to play inside out and move the ball carefully and decisively in order to contend. Meanwhile Darren Collison vs. his former teammate, Paul, is no contest. If CP3, coming off of a near triple-double vs. Detroit on Sunday doesn’t duplicate that success vs. his former backup, I’d be shocked.

Where Indiana holds an advantage over Los Angeles, and most teams for that matter, is along the perimeter. The Pacers have more wing size and skill than the Clippers. Danny Granger and Paul George vs. Randy Foye and Caron Butler isn’t even close to fair. Unfortunately, Indiana has struggled capitalizing on advantages lately. The Pacers are 28th in the league in FG% over the last ten games, and were horrible most recently in back-to-back games with New York, losing by 29 combined points and shooting 40% overall from the floor over the two contests. With a couple days of rest, the Pacers need to focus and get back to the emphasis on hard-nosed defense and rebounding that defined their early season. But we’ve said that before. The inconsistency that’s plagued this team all year could rear its ugly head again tonight against one of the West’s best.

The Pacers welcome newly-acquired guard Leandro Barbosa to the bench rotation tonight, while subsequently moving A.J. Price to the end of the bench, according to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. While he’s certainly capable of providing that offensive “spark” the Pacers have been seeking, Barbosa is not known for his defense, and that’s where Indiana has struggled the most lately. Here’s hoping Barbosa’s ready to overachieve. Otherwise it could be another discouraging night for Indiana overall.

Prediction: Clippers 103, Pacers 98

Losing tonight doesn’t make the Pacers bad. But it doesn’t prove that the Clippers are elite, either. Indiana needs to right the ship, and a looming matchup vs. Washington may be just what the doctor ordered. CP3 et al? Not so much.

Fantasy Outlook:

I wouldn’t rely on any Pacers except for Paul George (who is a must start) at this point. But George Hill has been serviceable in deep leagues throughout March. As for the Clips, start your regulars, but with so much money wrapped up in blue chippers, there really aren’t any exciting sleepers on this team.

All your base are belong to Lucas Klipsch. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317

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