The revenge of the reserves.
A unit that had been dreadful two days earlier largely saved the Clippers on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Wesley Johnson made five three-pointers, Jamal Crawford played some solid defense and Austin Rivers chased down the carom of George Hill's inbounds pass off the backboard with 0.3 seconds left to preserve a 91-89 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
All five reserves who played finished in the plus category, meaning the Clippers outscored the Pacers whenever they were on the court. It was the opposite for the Clippers starters, who all finished with minuses next to their names in the box score even with point guard Chris Paul compiling 26 points to go with seven assists and six rebounds.
"They saved the game," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "The bench, I mean, it's the exact reverse" of what happened Sunday in Toronto, when the reserves finished with minuses, the starters with pluses and the Clippers lost.
The Clippers also got a boost from forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who tipped an inbounds pass intended for Paul George with the Pacers trailing by two points and 2.1 seconds left. By the time the ball went out of bounds there was only three-tenths of a second left and the Pacers were forced to make Hill's desperation lob that hit the backboard before Rivers grabbed it to end the game.
The victory came at the end of an emotionally fraught day in which the Clippers learned they would be without All-Star forward Blake Griffin for another four to six weeks after he broke a bone in his right hand punching a team equipment manager.
"Any time you face adversity, whether it's wins and losses or guys being hurt, it can galvanize you," said Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick, who had 19 points. "It can bring you together. Tonight was definitely a good feeling to walk off the court and gut that one out."
The Clippers surged ahead with a 13-0 run spanning the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter. They held the Pacers to 0-for-14 shooting during a stretch that lasted 8:26.
George, who finished with 31 points, ended the scoring drought with a reverse layup and then pulled the Pacers to within 91-89 on a three-pointer with 28 seconds left before a backcourt violation on the Clippers set up the final sequence.
Foul trouble on the Clippers spurred a couple of lineup oddities. Doc Rivers staggered his starters and reserves far more than usual and briefly used a four-guard lineup alongside center DeAndre Jordan, who had 19 rebounds and nine points.
"Just having shooters and playmakers on the floor and me being able to set picks and get those guys open and them making plays, it was something that was working for us," Jordan said, "so we milked it."
The Clippers improved to 2-2 on a trip that will end Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks, not pausing to allow them time to collect themselves over the news regarding Griffin, who has already missed a month because of a quadriceps injury.
"The guys here still have a job to do," Paul said. "Indiana wasn't going to feel sorry for us. Atlanta's not going to feel sorry for us."
CLIPPERS AT ATLANTA
When: 5 p.m. PST.
Where: Philips Arena.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 29-16; Hawks 27-19.
Record vs. Hawks (2014-15): 0-2.
Update: Atlanta has won four of its last six games and is especially strong at home, where it's 15-7 this season. The interior tandem of center Al Horford and power forward Paul Millsap combine for 33.6 points a game and could give the Clippers some matchup problems with Blake Griffin sidelined by a quadriceps injury and now a broken hand.