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Pacers hold on to beat Clippers 109-106

Tuesday - 4/2/2013, 2:52am  ET

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, left, has his shot rejected by Indiana Pacers forward David West during the first half of their NBA basketball game, Monday, April 1, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

JOE RESNICK
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Roy Hibbert wasn't available the last time the Indiana Pacers faced the Los Angeles Clippers. This time he was, and that made all the difference Monday night in a battle between division leaders.

Hibbert scored 15 of his 26 points in the first quarter and grabbed 10 rebounds before fouling out, and the Pacers barely completed a sweep of their four-game road trip with a 109-106 victory.

"I just wanted to get out of the gates early, be aggressive, make the right plays and don't force things," Hibbert said. "Obviously, you don't want to lose a 24-point lead, but we got the victory. We knew they were going to make a run, but the fact that we weathered the storm is great."

Hibbert, who was serving a one-game suspension from the league when the Pacers lost to the Clippers 99-91 at Indianapolis on Feb. 28, made all eight of his shots in the first half and finished 11 for 14 from the field to help his team extend its winning streak to five and increase its Central Division lead to 6 1/2 games over idle Chicago. Paul George added 23 points and 10 assists.

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, whose games this season have fluctuated between dominant and invisible, played 17 scoreless minutes and went to the bench for good with 6:26 left in the third quarter. The Clippers were outscored 42-25 while he was on the floor.

"Roy's good, man. He's skilled. He can use both hands and he's a big body," Jordan said. "They have a lot of guys who can drive, so you've got to help -- and when you help, he's got the hammer. He really got going early on tonight. He didn't really get a lot of stuff in the post. It was more jump shots from the elbow."

All five Pacers starters scored in double figures, with David West getting 16 and backcourt mates Lance Stephenson and George Hill chipping in with 13 apiece.

Jamal Crawford scored 25 points off the bench for the Pacific Division-leading Clippers, whose magic number to clinch the first division title in the franchise's 43-year history remained at two. They failed on their third attempt at their 50th victory, which would break the franchise record set by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves. Blake Griffin had 17 points.

Los Angeles is 2-4 since clinching its second straight playoff berth. The Clippers host Phoenix on Wednesday.

"We've had three chances to get to 50 wins, and we still haven't been able to do it. So Wednesday's a big game for us," said Chris Paul, who had 10 points and eight assists. "We've got to approach it like a playoff game. Most teams are approaching us like that. Every game is a big game, and we've got to try and get some wins before the playoffs."

West, playing his third game after missing the previous six with a lower back sprain, capped a 12-2 run on a 16-footer that gave the Pacers their biggest lead, 79-55, with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

The Clippers, playing almost the first 8 minutes of the fourth quarter with all of their starters on the bench, narrowed the gap to 89-81 on Eric Bledsoe's 11-footer with 7:24 to play.

West then tipped the ball away from Crawford near midcourt and got it back from George for a fast-break layup that gave the Pacers a nine-point edge. Paul reported back in with 4:07 remaining and set up Crawford at the right sideline for a 3-pointer that cut the margin to 97-93 with 3:38 left.

"They have the best bench in the game, and you've got to account for those guys," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "Jamal Crawford is a nightmare for coaches preparing to play those guys. They made a furious comeback, but our guys showed a great deal of guts."

Hibbert fouled out for the fifth time this season with 1:35 remaining and the Pacers ahead 99-93. The Clippers briefly seized the moment, as Paul converted the ensuing free throws and Griffin added a dunk to bring Los Angeles within 99-97 with 1:11 to go. But West canned a fadeaway jumper, and the Pacers clinched it by making all eight free throws in the final 32 seconds.

"I'm just disappointed," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Just not enough effort from the starters to get us off to a good start, or a consistent 48 minutes of effort. We dug ourselves too big a hole and had to use a lot of energy from the bench to get us back in it. But they shot too high a percentage and made too many 3s (10 for 23)."

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