(SportsNetwork.com) - In what could possibly be an NBA Finals preview, the Indiana Pacers will take on the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday at Staples Center.
Yes, it's only December, but the Pacers and Clippers have as much potential to represent their respective conference in the championship round as the Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, Blazers and Heat do.
Indiana can prove it belongs among the ranks of the elite when it opens a five-game western road trip Sunday against the Clippers, Blazers, Jazz, Spurs and Thunder. Pacers head coach Frank Vogel talked about the upcoming trip.
"It will be somewhat revealing, but not all-revealing," Vogel said after practice. "If we go 0-5 it doesn't mean we're a disaster, if we go 5-0 it doesn't mean we won the championship. It's an early-season barometer."
The Pacers are 6-1 on the road and have won three straight as the visitor. They have won six in a row overall and recorded a 93-73 victory versus the Washington Wizards on Friday, as Paul George scored 23 points and Lance Stephenson fell short of a triple-double with seven points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.
George Hill and Roy Hibbert added 13 points apiece for Indiana, which remained unbeaten at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with its ninth consecutive home win to open the season. The Pacers also contained Wizards star John Wall and held him to eight points. Washington had 26 points off 15 Indiana turnovers and came into the game ranked second in the NBA with 18.6 fast-break points.
"Really strong effort by our guys," Vogel said. "Our guys really stepped up holding John Wall to eight points and the team to zero fast-break points"
The 73 points allowed by the Pacers were a season low and the defensive prowess helped extend the franchise's best start to 15-1.
Los Angeles is on a roll, too, and has won four in a row and nine of its last 12 games. It is coming off Friday's 104-98 overtime triumph at Sacramento and scored 10 of the 14 points in the extra stanza.
Jamal Crawford stepped up in the absence of Chris Paul (hamstring) and pumped in a season-best 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting to go along with 11 assists and seven rebounds.
"He's a beast. He's done that his whole career," Kings head coach Mike Malone said of Crawford.
Blake Griffin finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, Darren Collison added 15 points and J.J. Redick scored 13 for the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan nearly had a triple-double, finishing with 10 points, 15 boards and a career-high nine blocks.
Paul, who is questionable Sunday and leads the NBA with 12.2 assists per game, missed Friday's contest with a right hamstring strain. Paul injured the hamstring in the third quarter of Wednesday's win over the New York Knicks. Collison got the start at point guard and will handle the role again if Paul is unable to play.
Redick exited in the first half of Friday's win with an apparent wrist injury and is also listed as questionable.
"It's a sprained wrist and the x-rays are negative," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. "If it's his left hand, he'd be fine because he doesn't have one."
Rivers is one win shy of 600 in his career.
The Clippers, who have a 9-0 mark when scoring 100 points, are 8-1 at home and will start a seven-game east coast trip Wednesday against Atlanta, Memphis, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn and Washington. The Clips' 12-5 record matches the 2005-06 team, which was 13-5 after 18 games.
L.A. and Indiana split two meetings last season with each team winning on the road.