Kevin Durant really didn’t need to step up all that much in this game. Russell Westbrook already did, way before in this game. But he did need some help in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s comeback victory over the Indiana Pacers, fueling towards a 110-106 thriller in overtime at Conseco Fieldhouse. The Thunder now improve to 11-5 while Indiana falls to 7-7.
It was rather just a disappointing loss for the Pacers. The Pacers were up by 14 points in third quarter, but they let a run for the Thunder to let them come back in the game. Indiana had six straight possessions that landed in turnovers. It seemed as if you were in NBA 2K11 and go to Game Sliders and increasing your steal rate so you can steal easier was happening for the Thunder with the Pacers. They were stealing the ball so easily versus Indiana. Oklahoma City would build on an 11-0 run and only trailed 64-61 then.
“We were rewarded for our hard work and perseverance,” Durant said. “It was a good win for us tonight. Tonight was one of those games where had to grind it out.”
Durant helped the Thunder out with his 25 points. But eleven his points came in the final two minutes of overtime, as he took control to ensure a victory for OKC. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 43 points. He broke his previous career-high of 36 points earlier in the season. I couldn’t believe how great Westbrook was playing. He was unstoppable, getting so many stops at the line and hitting many key shots in the game.
“I think the guys did a great job hanging in there,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “You like to hear words like tough and scrappy. Our team is improving in those daily.”
Durant helped tie the game off a jumper as the game was tied at 96 entering overtime. Indiana almost let the game slip away, but entering overtime could help the team. However, Indiana just played worse as the Thunder built on a 104-103 lead, quickly. Durant would help extend the lead to 106-103 with 23 seconds remaining in the game. Other areas where Durant stepped up was in the rebounding department with eight of them. He was truly on the mark that night.
“I don’t look at his shooting,” Brooks said. “I see what he’s doing all around. Kevin Durant wants to be a special player, and special players have to be two-way players.”
Indiana played solid defensively in the first half but the second half was all lost in them after Durant and Westbrook kept piling on points. But then again, so were the Pacers. Danny Granger had 30 points while five other Pacers were in double-figures. But the Thunder offense was just barely better tonight.
“We’re confident we can play with anybody,” Indiana forward Josh McRoberts said after adding 13 points and eight rebounds. “That’s not enough. You’ve got to go out and win against anybody.”
The key component to the success of the Thunder and Westbrook was the free throws. While also being 13-of-24 overall, Westbrook was also 17-of-18 from the free-throw line.
“Russell Westbrook was very good tonight,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “We tried different matchups. He was just too much. We didn’t have what it takes to stop him. He’s quickly becoming one of the better guards in the league. He’s so fast and explosive.”
Westbrook had 29 points in the second half while also having eight rebounds and eight assists. Jeff Green had 15 points and attacked the boards with 14 of them. Thabo Sefolosha played well again. He had 13 points and ten rebounds. Don’t mind of how much points he scores. The big component is how he does defensively. And he played very solid defense that night and was guarding up Granger well. As you can see, he limited Granger to only four rebounds while he had ten of his own. A good, shadowed performance by Sefolosha. The Thunder struggled in the first half overall, but made a quick stride to help them win over the blue and gold in the second half.
“We started out slow on the offensive end,” Durant said. “But we played hard all the way through the game. Russell did a great job tonight. Me and Jeff weren’t shooting the ball well early, and great point guards take over. He did a great job of that.
“It opened up for myself and Jeff to get baskets late in the game. Russell was unbelievable.”
Darren Collison had a chance to take advantage. He made an amazing shot in the overtime period. After Westbrook’s 15-foot jumper to give the Thunder a 102-100 lead, Collison twisted around and made a shot over-the-head for a possible three-point play. But he missed the free throw. Making that free throw could have changed the whole aspect of the match-up.
“They made some crazy shots all night, but I think for the most part we played so hard on the defensive end and got stops,” Durant said. “We helped each other out and got some key blocks that allowed us to get some easy points.
The Pacers played well. Now they got a tough match-up up ahead as they face the Los Angeles Lakers. Listen, I’ll take the 7-7 record. I can take it. I don’t mind it at all. I honestly didn’t expect the Pacers to be this good right now. I would have thought 5-9 or 4-10 right now for this team. But man, they have proved everyone wrong. Maybe they could prove Kobe Bryant and L.A. wrong when they face them tonight. The Thunder will meanwhile travel to Houston and face the Rockets.
The Pacers had this one. They just couldn’t hold on.
“This is one that we should have won in regulation,” Granger said. “We let it get away from us. We did a pretty good job on Durant, but Westbrook really picked the slack and got the job done.”
Granger is right on the money on this. The Pacers had a good shot at winning this. They had it.
They just let it get away from them.