An overtime win against the Pacers, that included an intense fourth quarter comeback and late game heroics from all three of our big players? I'll take that type of game any time of the day, and any day of the week.
This game started out really fun, and looked like a barnburner. Both teams were scoring at will from all ends of the floor, and there was little to no defense from either side. Serge Ibaka got the start at Center to combat Roy Hibbert. Nick Collison subbed in halfway through, and the strategy worked well, as Hibbert only had one bucket in the first.
But all good things must come to an end, and the second quarter turned into another grindfest. After a couple of early threes from Posey, the game was constantly slowed down by trips to the line. Indiana took a decent sized lead here, getting it as high as 8 via some key three pointers. They kept their lead going into the third courtesy of some Granger threes.
Once they got into the fourth, their strategy of constantly dumping it down to Roy Hibbert seemed to work, as he overpowered Ibaka for 11 points in the quarter. When he wasn't scoring, they were making lots of second chance buckets and dishing it out to their long range shooters. This nightmare was dulled by some great inside play early on from the Thunder, and a few clutch threes towards the end. When it was all said and done, the Thunder have a 5 point hole to climb out of going into the fourth.
Below: Chronicling the Comeback and OT, Stat Lines, How the Pacers Did and Will Do, Awards!
After a short grindfest early on in the fourth, things finally started getting interesting. To put it quite simply: Russell Westbrook took over the game. Like a flash of light or a man with three lungs, he burned his man time and time again to get points in the paint. Whether they were easy or hard doesn't really matter....all that matters is that every trip counted for something. The Pacers were missing shots left and right, and the Thunder had brought it to within 1, 87-88. But then, the Pacers stormed right back via two Danny Granger jumpers and a Roy Hibbert layup. A couple trips to the line from the Thunder put the deficit back to three, with one minute to go.
And then, the magic began. Roy Hibbert got the ball under the basket and seemed ripe for the score. But then, Serge Ibaka swatted the ball away in the midst of the triple team, and it was Thunder ball. Russell brought the ball up, and immediately penetrated and dished. The ball rotated to a wide-open KD, whose shot was a little bit short.
In comes Russell Westbrook. In one fell swoop, he tips the ball, rebounds his own tip that didn't even hit the rim, throws it back up, scores it, and draws the foul. He missed the free throw, but that's beside the point. That was a spectacular play, and it set the tone for the rest of the game.
Play resumed, and T.J. Ford quieted everybody at home with a quick layup. On the other end, KD was quick to respond. He dribbled it past a double team, and literally scooped the ball towards the basket from 12 feet away. It bounced a few time, but it went in, and he drew the foul. He made the freethrow to tie the game, and ultimately, send it into overtime.
And in overtime, it was simply a matter of relying on our big guns. Jeff Green had a particularly poignant moment where he was fouled, re-injured his ankle, but bounced back to shoot the freethrows and continue playing, to avoid Jim O'Brien selecting the Thunder's freethrow shooter. (I wasn't looking forward to some B.J. Mullens clanks.) The thunder found themselves down with 1:07 to go, and Jeff Green fouled out of the game. But it was no problem. Kevin Durant flew past Granger for an easy layup, Roy Hibbert was blocked on another triple-team, and KD made a cold jumper from the free throw line.
The Pacers had ample time to respond. Danny Granger took a deep three from the middle, as usual for the Pacers, but DJ White did a good job of staying in his face, and the three clanked off of the rim. Harden grabbed the rebound, the Thunder went to the line, and that was all she wrote. The Oklahoma City Thunder had grabbed a win from the jaws of defeat on the road.
The congratulations for the Thunder's win have to start and end with Russell Westbrook (Thunder Wonder). A career and season team high 43 Points, 8 Rebounds, 8 Assists, and 3 Steals rounded out his MVP-like night. Kevin Durant (Thunder Down Under) had a solid game in his own right, with 25 Points, 8 Rebounds, 1 Assist, and 2 Steals. But he was only 1 of 8 beyond the arc, and had he hit his threes with any consistency, this game would have been over with a minute or two to go. Still, he did have some crucial shots in the fourth quarter and OT, and for that, he deserves to be commended.
Thabo Sefolosha also played well, grabbing a double double with 13 Points and 10 Rebounds. Jeff green had 15 Points, 14 Rebounds, and 4 Assists, providing a better than usual game overall, but still a bit lacking in the scoring department. Serge Ibaka (Thunder Blunder) scored 6 and rebounded only once on Hibbert, Harden scored 6 while shooting horribly but got 6 Rebounds and a Steal, D.J. White had 2 Points, 4 Rebounds, and a Block, Eric Maynor had 4 rebounds, Nick Collison had 2 Points and 4 Rebounds, B.J. Mullens Picked up a Foul, and Royal Ivey played 8 seconds at the end of the game.
As for the Pacers? They were really starter heavy. Aside from a few James Posey threes I didn't see a lot from their bench. The team did do a good job of distributing the ball, playing to their strengths, and keeping ahead of the Thunder, but they just didn't have a go to guy in the clutch, like the Thunder did. Danny Granger (Thunder Plunderer) hit a few jumpers late in the fourth, but he got the ball stolen in the Pacers last possession of regulation, and he missed a couple of crucial threes on OT. Roy Hibbert was constantly triple teamed later on, and couldn't get anything going.
We'll see the Pacers again at home in early March, and it will be interesting to see where they're at. Will they be gunning for a playoff position? Relegated to the lottery? Or will they surprise everyone and be a contender for the East crown? To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised to see all three. It will depend on how their young guys do, how their injuries hold up, and whether they can find a way to get bench production, through finding the right guy to go to, a trade, or otherwise. But if things continue as they are, I wouldn't be surprised to see these guys as a 6 or 7 seed in the East, and challenging a team like the Magic or Bulls in the first round. Is that a success for the Pacers? In my eyes, yes, but I think Pacer fans would want a bit more than that....
Next Game: At the Houston Rockets, Sunday, November 28th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.