The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Indiana Pacers on the road, 93-90. In what has become a familiar chain of events, OKC fell apart in the 3rd quarter, surrendering a double-digit lead, then falling behind by as much as 10 in the 4th. Led by Russell Westbrook’s 11 points, the Thunder pulled to within 1 with 2:04 remaining. After getting a number of key stops on the defensive end, OKC could not convert to take control of the game again. With critical misses at the rim by Westbrook and Steven Adams, followed by a wide-open 3 from Victor Oladipo (0-6 from 3 for the game) that could have tied it, it came down to a final 7 seconds. In those seconds, Westbrook missed the 3-point shots that he has been making as of late, and as a result, OKC takes the loss.
To be sure, the Pacers are no fluke. Not only are they coming together as a team (7 wins in a row), but they have been making masterful adjustments, particularly in the 2nd half, to push past teams. That is exactly what happened tonight.
In the first half, the Thunder, despite still struggling to make open shots, had a strong downhill game going, with Westbrook getting into the lane to create mismatches at the rim. However, starting in the 3rd, the Pacers began to switch the long-armed Paul George onto Westbrook, and the lane closed up. Undeterred, Westbrook continued to force the action and had some success setting up Adams and Jeoffrey Lauvergne in the middle, but the refs permitted some aggressive play by the Pacers’ big men. The result was physical contests at the rim, only 2 trips to the free throw line in the 3rd, a very frustrated offense, and 32-18 collapse in the quarter that led to OKC facing a deficit entering the 4th.
While the Thunder did show some resolve to get back in the game, ultimately this was a game of two halves - in the 2nd, the Pacers made the necessary adjustments, and the Thunder did not.
- Steven Adams has been getting the Shaq treatment around the rim.
- I suppose it is a thing with this team now to have at least one awful quarter (usually the 2nd or 3rd). Which is frustrating, because...
- Before Enes Kanter got hurt and while Semaj Christon was developing, those bench stretches were turning into a positive. But now, Enes is out and Payne continues to struggle. Cam is showing some signs of at least being engaged, but he’s been simply awful, contributing little to nothing, and continues to show no semblance of ability to run an offense. Speaking of which...
- Billy, stop putting Cameron Payne in one-on-one situations at the ends of quarters. He’s simply not quick enough or strong enough to create an open shot when the entire sequence depends on him beating his own man.
- The Thunder defense, for the 2nd game in a row, was quite good. Definitely good enough to win. Andre Roberson was a beast, holding Paul George, one of the top 10 players in the league, to 21 on 7-20 shooting (2-9 from 3). PG is almost as difficult to guard as #35, and Robes did a fantastic job slowing him down.
- Oladipo played hard and had some crucial plays, but his coming up empty, particularly from long range, really cost the team. His miss off a Westbrook feed with 32 seconds remaining, which would have tied it up, was particularly painful to see rim out.
- It was great to see OKC win vs the Trail Blazers last night, but not sealing the win up tonight makes the rest of this week particularly daunting, as now the Thunder must take on the two Finals representatives in the next two games. What felt like it could be a bit of a buffer now threatens yet another 3 game losing streak.
- Buffalo Trace, in case you were wondering.