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Pacers win third in a row and sweep season series

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana's Danny Granger is making the most
of his opportunity.

Forced into more minutes after the Pacers made Ron Artest
inactive, the rookie forward scored a career-high 16 points and
grabbed seven rebounds to help the Pacers beat the Los Angeles
Clippers 97-75 on Wednesday night.

Granger said he is starting to gain confidence.

"The more I play, the easier it is for me and the more
comfortable I get," he said. "I like to help on defense and block
shots, and on the offensive end, take my shots as they come to
me."

Granger still looked like a rookie when he guarded Elton Brand,
who finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds.

"He's so strong," Granger said. "He's got a strong body,
strong legs. You've just got to try to keep the ball away from him
as much as possible. He's an all-star, probably an MVP candidate
this year. I did my best."

The Pacers won their third game in a row heading into a road
trip that includes games against Cleveland, Dallas and San Antonio.
Their 15-8 record is second-best in the Eastern Conference.

The Clippers have lost five of their last six after starting the
season 14-5.

Stephen Jackson scored 24 points and Jamaal Tinsley had 17
points and eight assists for the Pacers.

Chris Kaman had 13 points and 16 rebounds for the Clippers.

Indiana held the Clippers to 37 percent shooting from the field
to sweep the season series. The Pacers defeated the Clippers 97-92
on Nov. 27 at the Staples Center.

Brand shot 11-for-20 from the field, but the rest of the
Clippers shot 22-for-69. The Pacers elected to play man-to-man
defense instead of double-teaming Brand, and they said it paid off.

"We stayed on top of them defensively and made them take some
tough shots," Jackson said. "They're a great team, and they're
going to continue to get better, we just played hard and wanted
this game. We needed it."

The Pacers countered Brand's dominance with balance. Jermaine
O'Neal had 15 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks as the Pacers shot
51 percent from the field.

The Clippers missed 15 of their first 17 shots from the field,
but only trailed 24-18 at the end of the first quarter.

Granger scored eight points in the second quarter to help
Indiana take a 46-38 halftime lead.

The Pacers led 66-58 at the end of the third quarter before the
Clippers cut Indiana's lead to 72-68 on a Daniel Ewing dunk.

Fred Jones made a 3-pointer, Jackson made a free throw and
Granger hit a jump shot to increase Indiana's lead to 78-68 with
7:42 left.

The Clippers cut the Pacers' lead to 78-72 with 5:12 left, but
the Pacers outscored the Clippers 19-3 the rest of the way.

Los Angeles lost at New Jersey on Tuesday night, but the rested
Pacers hadn't played since Saturday. Brand said the Clippers are
going to have to handle situations like this better if they want to
become a playoff-caliber team.

"We do have teams coming for us now, zeroing in on us with a
big target on us," he said. "Yes, we did play last night and this
was a back-to-back. But that's no excuse for playing the way we did
tonight."

Game notes
Shaun Livingston had 10 points and five assists in 39
minutes for the Clippers in his first start of the season. ... Los
Angeles' Corey Maggette sat out for the eighth-straight game with a
sprained ligament in his left foot. He averages 22 points per game.
... The Pacers are 5-2 without Ron Artest, who has been put on the
inactive list indefinitely after publicly requesting a trade.
Artest leads the league in steals per game and is second on the
team in scoring.