|All Sports|||||Scoreboard|||||Stats|||||Standings|||||Teams|||||Players|||||Player News|||||Injuries|||||Transactions|
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- Indiana's stellar play at home has done more than put the Pacers atop the Eastern Conference. It's had them hovering around the top of the entire NBA all season.
Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers, meanwhile, have been enjoying a strong stretch of their own since Chris Paul went down with an injury.
The Pacers, who have lost only once at home, seek their ninth straight win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday as they close the season series with the surging Clippers.
Indiana (31-7) currently owns the best record in the league, which includes a 20-1 mark at home. The Pacers are having little trouble in Indiana of late, outscoring visitors by an average of 21.3 points during the win streak.
"We have set a goal, and we want to be the No. 1 seed (in the East)," said guard Lance Stephenson. "Every night I try to bring something to the table."
Stephenson did just that Thursday with a career-high 28 points, while Paul George added 25 with seven rebounds in a 117-89 thrashing of New York that improved the Pacers to 3-0 on a four-game homestand.
The team's league-best defense held the Knicks to 40.0 percent shooting, including 4 of 19 from beyond the arc. They're yielding 88.1 points per game and 40.9 percent shooting this season, but have been even better during the home streak, allowing an average of 81.7 points and 28.0 percent shooting from long range.
Indiana beat the Clippers 105-100 at Staples Center on Dec. 1, but fell 99-91 in the most recent home meeting Feb. 28.
Los Angeles (28-13), the Pacific Division leader, has won five in a row while averaging 114.6 points. That stretch has been made even more impressive by the absence of Paul, who is out for up to four more weeks with a separated shoulder.
The Clippers are a surprising 6-1 without their All-Star point guard this season, and Griffin is doing his part to pick up the slack. The forward leads the team with 22.3 points per game, but he's putting up 29.3 on 63.3 percent shooting over the past four.
Griffin came up big with 32 points on 12-for-20 shooting Friday in a 109-95 win over the Knicks that opened a seven-game road trip caused by Staples hosting the Grammys.
"Something CP always says when we are on a road trip, 'Can't win them all without winning the first,'" Griffin said. "So to get the first one for us is obviously great, to get the win to start the road trip and help our mindsets for the rest of the games."
Griffin had a quiet night against Indiana's imposing frontcourt in the first meeting, when he was limited to 16 points and 12 rebounds with five turnovers.
Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 20 points off the bench in that contest and is coming off a 29-point effort against New York, overcoming an illness that had him vomiting in the locker room during warmups.
Crawford is averaging 22.7 points over his last three meetings with the Pacers, including 23 at Indiana on Feb. 28.
Containing George should be one of the keys to beating Indiana again. The forward is averaging 23.3 points over the last three meetings after scoring 27 on Dec. 1.
George has totaled 56 points in two games since scoring a season-low eight - his only game in single digits this season - and shooting 2 for 14 from the field in a 93-66 win over Washington on Jan. 10.
Updated January 18, 2014