The Good – The entire bench, which has been a rarity this season, and Mr. Born Ready.
When given opportunities, the effect of C.J. Watson is hit or miss …. literally. Entering the game in the first quarter playing nearly half of the period, Watson was able to contribute to the 22-point first for Indiana by nailing two 3-pointers. That boost immediately matched the offensive intensity Kevin Durant was bringing early, as the sure-fire MVP came out blazing with 12 quick points.
Watson stayed in his aggressive mode from the outside all game, leading the bench with 20 points while hitting 4-of-7 3-pointers. Part of the criticism Indiana has faced is that they don’t possess perimeter threats, but at least Oklahoma City can beg to differ. Three players off the bench — Watson, Scola, Mahinmi — combined for 41 points, and it’s better to show up late in the season than not at all.
Lance Stephenson’s fiery character counts for a few stretches each and every game, and his 5th triple double of the season caught the Thunder off guard. On Fan Appreciation Night, Stephenson showed why the Pacers absolutely have to work out a deal for him in the summer.
The Bad – Roy Hibbert, “the big dog,” or whatever he goes by these days. The offense is worse than bad.
His ability as a rim protector justifies why Indiana was +7 in points when he was on the floor, but you can’t go 2-of-21 in your last three games. Nope.
MVP – Stephenson and Watson can share the honors.
In this league, there are only three options to stopping Oklahoma City. There’s having a top three superstar (Miami), being able to explode from the outside, or at least matching the energetic Russell Westbrook, who enjoyed staring at the G2 Zone that decided to fire him up for a questionable reason. On Sunday, the Pacers accomplished the latter two options, and it’s because of none other than these two.
When your own superstar, Paul George, has a hard time scoring in the middle or penetrating on Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, others have to fill the void. Check.
LVP – George Hill, as there was no way to pinpoint exactly how he affected the game as much as Evan Turner (4 assists in 19 minutes). Hill also continues to stray away from attacking on offense, and that’s not a great thing as the playoffs approach next weekend.
X Factor – Ian Mahinmi, the backup center actually available.
Mahinmi is providing more consistent offense than Hibbert, and he stayed active on the offensive glass during pivotal moments that could’ve ended in Thunder fast breaks. Give the Frenchman credit for making the best of what he’s offered.
|David West, PF 33 MIN | 9-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTS | +4Veteran leader, who blocked the Durantula in a crucial 4th quarter possession.|
|Paul George, SF 36 MIN | 6-17 FG | 5-5 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | -2The most formidable rebounding force for the day, and that means something against such a physical frontcourt.|
|Roy Hibbert, C 27 MIN | 0-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | +7Rim protecting defense was superb, but the horrible offense is more than a problem …. it’s becoming a disaster.|
|George Hill, PG 23 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -4Where’s the same person that took it to Damian Lillard in February’s OT victory?|
|Lance Stephenson, SG 41 MIN | 7-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 11 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 17 PTS | +6Born as the league’s triple double leader. Stephenson recorded his fifth on Sunday.|
|Luis Scola, PF 15 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +1 |
If Houston-type Scola is back, I might never leave my seat for the playoffs.
|Evan Turner, SF 19 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 0 PTS | +6Setting up teammates was his greatest aspect for the day, but at least he’s not gunning away when he’s on the floor.|
|Ian Mahinmi, C 21 MIN | 4-4 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -2More offensive poise than Roy, and had the confidence to battle with Ibaka, who is known to deliver some hardcore blows.|
|C.J. Watson, PG 25 MIN | 6-10 FG | 4-6 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +9Veteran backup, 3-point savior. Continue to show Hill the ropes.|
|Frank Vogel |
Resting may not have been a bad thing after all. Magic number is now 1 to lock up the East’s top seed.