Clippers lose to Pacers, end eight-game trip with 4-4 record

One more day.

One more day was left before the Clippers could slip into their comfortable sheets in their home bed, hug their loved ones, bask for a few days in the warmth of the Los Angeles sun.

They were on the road for two weeks, spending days of their lives in the sky. Sure, there was a fun novelty in the team dinners and hotel hangouts, and sharpshooting wing Luke Kennard sprinting up and down their plane’s aisle to dole out high-fives after his Cincinnati Bengals advanced to the Super Bowl, but everyone was thinking of getting back home, coach Tyronn Lue said.

First, they had one more game to play, the decimated Indiana Pacers standing in their way after a contest in Charlotte the previous afternoon.

“It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be tough — we understand it’s eight games in 14 days,” Lue said before the game Monday in Indianapolis. “But this is a huge game for us, so we’ve got to be ready to go.”

Lue was right; this one was tough. The Clippers came out of the locker room Monday looking like a team in need of a hot tub and a few leg massages. For a minute, it looked as if they would pull off another signature comeback, cutting a 12-point lead to three with just three minutes left — but the gas tank was empty, and Indiana pulled away in the final minutes to secure a 122- 116 win.

The loss, which dropped the Clippers (26-27) to 4-4 on the trip, carried a special sting because the Pacers (19-33) were arguably missing their three top players in All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, steady guard Malcolm Brogdon and shot blocking center Myles Turner.

Despite their opponents’ depleted roster, Los Angeles looked a step slow defensively for much of the first half, giving up 60 points to the Pacers through the two quarters after holding the Hornets to 90 points in LA’s win Sunday.

The absence of center Ivica Zubac certainly didn’t help — a player who had missed all of four games over the previous three seasons combined — as the Pacers’ Caris LeVert darted into the lane to loft soft floaters over outstretched arms. Defenders such as Terance Mann were playing too tight on LeVert without much help coming in the pick-and-roll sets. The explosive guard found open lanes to the rim time and time again to tally 14 first-half points.

In the second half, Lue made a key adjustment, blitzing LeVert out of the pick-and-roll plays and forcing him to be a playmaker. It worked and the Clippers built an eight-point lead, 80-72, late in the third quarter, but a flurry of three-pointers by Duane Washington Jr. in the fourth extended the Pacers’ lead.

Amir Coffey finished with 27 points on nine-for-14 shooting, and Reggie Jackson carried the Clippers in the second half with a couple of timely threes and 21 total points. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

Evans reported from Los Angeles.

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