Pacers win over Thunder breaks trend of first-quarter slumps

The Pacers finally slayed one of their biggest demons in Tuesday's game against the Thunder.

Mar 12, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) shoots as
Mar 12, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) shoots as / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, the Indiana Pacers' win over the West-leading Oklahoma City Thunder seems impressive enough. Despite the absence of Jalen Williams, the Thunder are still a very dangerous team, led by perhaps the league's MVP in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Rookie of the Year candidate Chet Holmgren. For the Pacers to win, they would have to do what they routinely fail to do, which is come out of the gates hot and set the tone early in the first quarter, letting OKC know they are not to be taken lightly

Indeed, that is exactly what they did, jumping out to an early 13-4 lead and not really looking back the rest of the way, outside of a brief one-point lead by the Thunder in the third quarter. For the first time in a while, the Pacers played like themselves to start the game, instead of a lottery team, which they regularly impersonate in first quarters.

Ever since returning from the All-Star Break, the Pacers are 1-4 in games in which they trail after the first quarter. This includes two losses to far inferior teams, such as the Spurs and Raptors, where Indiana went down big early and attempted a comeback, but ultimately ran out of gas before the finish line.

This has been the story of a lot of Pacers' losses, as Indiana rarely throws in the towel after going down big but rather fights to stay in, even potentially taking a small lead before their momentum runs out and the opposing team takes over. If you recall, this was the main reason why they lost to Boston on February 1, as their comeback attempts almost always fall short, mostly due to the players running out of gas.

It was refreshing to see this not be the case against OKC. If anything, this was the opposite of a lot of Pacers games, where the Thunder went down big early and had to play catch-up the rest of the way, taking a one-point lead in the third quarter before the shots stopped falling and Indiana took over the rest of the way.

It is very important for the Pacers to keep this style of play up, as going into the playoffs, they cannot afford to go down big in games. It is nice to see the Pacers slowly patching their holes before the playoffs start, as they have ramped up their defense quite a bit to playoff-level and are poised for a possible deep run, further highlighted by the OKC win taking them out of the play-in race and into the sixth seed.

Next. Next story. The Pacers need to use this lineup combination more. dark

In order to create some separation as the sixth seed, the Pacers need to slay another demon, winning off a back-to-back. This upcoming game against Chicago is a prime opportunity for the Pacers to claim the sixth seed for themselves against a far inferior team. It will be up to Tyrese Haliburton and company to take advantage of this opportunity and control their own destiny.