The aim of the Thunder’s season was a high draft pick; losing games was expected, but Saturday’s game was another level. Oklahoma City was embarrassed by the Pacers. Indiana had the game sewn up by the end of the first half but did not relent for one minute. The Pacers continued to take the Thunder apart and racked up a huge lead. At one point, Indiana had a 63-point lead over Oklahoma City.
I can understand losing, but this loss was unacceptable. The Thunder were overwhelmed time after time by waves of Pacers’ attacks. It is the first Thunder game that I have seen where Oklahoma City just looked out of their depth on the hardwood.
The tone was set early in the game; Indiana jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back. Domantas Sabonis has matured into being a highly skilled creator, and he dissected the Thunder’s defense throughout the first quarter. He was much too strong for Moses Brown, and Sabonis constantly beat the double team by finding cutters with his passing.
The Thunder eventually slowed him down in the post; Roby played much tighter to Sabonis and squeezed the strong side of the floor. The reduced space meant that Sabonis could not get his inside looks, but Domas dominated screen actions at the top of the key.
Bazley was aggressive in the first quarter with his shot and attacked the basket relentlessly. Darius’s shot was not dropping, but it was good to see that the misses did not dishearten him. Bazley being aggressive is valuable for the Thunder in a moment when OKC does not have much in the way of dribble penetration.
Gabriel Deck came into the game towards the end of the first quarter and started to show why he’s so highly regarded in the international circle. Deck had a sweet finish inside that came off a wide, extended crossover that completely wrong-footed LeVert.
Indiana was lethal from outside in the first quarter, and the Pacers’ hot shooting never really went away. The barrage of shots from downtown meant that the Thunder were down by 21 with ten minutes to go in the second quarter. The bench unit did not do much to slow the Pacers down.
Indiana could rack up another 40-point quarter, and Oklahoma City was unable to match the Pacers offensively. Ty Jerome did not play, which meant that Svi Mykhailiuk was relied on to run the offense. The role of lead playmaker was too big for Svi; he struggled to balance his own scoring with creating for others. Mykhailiuk eventually started forcing his shot, and the Thunder’s offense stagnated.
By the end of the second quarter, the game was done. Oklahoma City was down by 36 points. Sabonis had a triple-double in 18 minutes and looked like a man amongst boys. Doug McDermott also had a strong first half as he torched the Thunder from downtown. McDermott was too elusive for Charlie Brown Jr, and it was a rough night for the young forward.
The Thunder were thoroughly beaten in the third quarter. The Pacers were relentless on offense and built a 56-point lead by the end of the third quarter. There were few bright spots for the Thunder; Moses Brown was the only player who really stood out.
Moses eventually finished the game with 16 points and 7 rebounds, but it was his activity that was impressive. Brown never stopped fighting for every board, and his ability to get offensive rebounds kept the Thunder alive for portions of the game.
Gabriel Deck was the other bright spot. Deck did not have a good scoring night, but he was excellent on a night where most Thunder players were below par. His feel for the game is clear, and he had one really nice moment in the post. Deck finessed his way around the defense and drained a clean step-back mid-range jumper.
This loss against Indiana is the biggest in Thunder history, and it will be pretty painful for the players over the next few games. In the postgame press conference, Moses Brown spoke about approaching the next game with a ‘0-0’ mentality. The Thunder cannot allow themselves to be bogged down by a hugely embarrassing moment.