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NBA Weekend Betting: Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 1/13/2014 9:24:23 PM

There won’t be another weekend game anywhere close to the Saturday matchup between the Clippers and Pacers. The two teams played a spirited game in Los Angeles earlier this season, with the Pacers winning. Each team views itself as a team that should compete for the NBA title in the spring, but right now, only the Pacers seem worthy of that distinction. Yet, if the Clippers can pull off the upset on the road in Indianapolis, they would certainly take a very big step toward gaining added respect in the Association.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Indiana Pacers

The addition of Doc Rivers as the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers certainly improved the odds of the “other” Los Angeles NBA franchise making a deep playoff run. However, it hasn’t been a smooth ride for the Clips. Injuries to J.J. Redick and Chris Paul have prevented this team from gaining the continuity and flow it wants in its halfcourt sets. The Clippers have a long way to go in terms of meshing on the floor as a team, and in terms of developing the kind of mentality Rivers wants, the kind of mentality that will get Los Angeles a few steps closer to an NBA title in an extremely difficult and demanding Western Conference. However, this game isn’t even about the Western Conference; Indiana is the best team in the Eastern Conference, chiefly because of its lockdown defense, and even more specifically because it is so relentlessly good in terms of putting the hammer to opponents in the third quarter.

The Pacers might wobble in second quarters of games, but they’ve been so unceasingly good in third quarters and second halves over the past three months that any first-half lulls don’t matter. The Pacers find solutions. They correct errors. They make adjustments. They dig in at the defensive end of the floor. They figure out their opponents, in short, and that’s why they’re so tough to go against. Indiana offers waves and waves of quality depth and can therefore deliver a consistent defensive performance with lots of different lineup combinations on the floor. The Pacers can stay fresh and not sacrifice too much in the way of defensive competence.

What’s going to hurt the Clippers in this game, more than anything else, is the injury to Chris Paul, their best player. A right shoulder injury is going to keep Paul out of the lineup through the rest of January for sure, and likely through the All-Star break. The Clippers have a reasonable degree of depth in their own right with Darren Collison running the show at the point. He’s a decent point guard, and moreover, one who has played with the Pacers in recent years and therefore knows the system Frank Vogel runs in Indiana.

Yet, Collison is no Paul, and that deficit is likely to emerge at some point in this game. Paul is able to create plays that almost all other point guards can’t make. Collision is not in his class, and that’s why the Clippers will need Blake Griffin to have a huge game here.

Prediction

The Pacers smother most opponents with their defense, and since Chris Paul is out, Indiana should be able to do what it wants on defense, especially in the second half of this contest.

Pick: Pacers

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