The thinking was, coming off a big game the night before, that included arriving at a new destination at 4:30 in the morning, that the Thunder would wear down in the latter stages of tonight’s game against the Pacers.
Behind a 25-8 fourth quarter domination that featured the Pacers going just 2-of-18 from the floor, the Thunder not only cruised to an excellent road win against one of the East’s best teams, but did it in dominating fashion. To follow up last night’s takedown of the Spurs with a destruction of the East’s second/third best team, on the road, is pretty darn impressive.
After playing 45 minutes against the Spurs, Kevin Durant seemed to show some signs of fatigue, scoring just two points in the first quarter. He got going a little with 10 in the second, but took a blow to his left calf and ended up limping to the locker room. He started the second half and very quickly, made sure to announce to everyone that he was just fine, as he touched the sky to finish a lofty oop from Russell Westbrook.
Durant scored 22 of his 34 in the second half, including 15 in the fourth. A line of 13-21 from the floor, 2-3 from 3, 6-7 from the line, and nine rebounds to go with it all. We’ve all seen it for quite a while now, but it’s still amazing how KD can silently pile up points. When Westbrook scores, it’s kind of in your face. You feel those points. Durant just methodically tacks them on.
He found his rhythm early in the fourth as he captained a lineup featuring Reggie Jackson, Kevin Martin, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet. That group sparked a 9-0 run to start the quarter and basically sunk the Pacers there. Durant scored the first six, and then set Martin up for a 3 that made it 81-67, blowing open an otherwise tight game. With the Pacers are inept offensively as North Korea, it was basically a done deal.
A significant positive to point out: OKC’s fourth quarter offense was extremely effective. The execution was splendid as the Thunder relied mostly on two sets: a faux screen-and-pop with Westbrook and Durant and straight pick-and-roll with Westbrook and Perk. Durant knocked down two on the pop set, and missed a wide open third. The pick-and-roll with Perk had the Pacers extremely confused as Roy Hibbert was caught overshading to Westbrook multiple times, once freeing up an easy dunk for Perk, and other times opening easy kickouts to Durant because his man was cheating down to help on the roll man.
Relevant: The Pacers feature the best defense in basketball. And the Thunder just picked it all apart.
The win is pretty great because this game had all the appearances of a schedule loss, and was about to hand control back to the Spurs. I wasn’t especially optimistic about it, but like last night against the Spurs, the Thunder showed something. They had that next gear, they played world class defense and Durant flashed that finishing touch.
Amazing what a week can do with perspective. Last Friday, the Thunder dropped a fairly awful game in Minnesota and looked bored, lazy and tired doing it. Tonight, they overwhelmed a top Eastern team about 20 hours after taking down the Spurs. The playoffs are coming, and the Thunder are starting to act like it.
- Credit the Thunder defense, but man, the Pacers took some awful shots in the second half. They went 11-35 the final 24 minutes and did it mostly just heaving up contested jumpers. Outside of David West and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers were terrible offensively. Those two went a combined 15-28 from the floor. The rest of the team, 12-44.
- Hey, the Thunder won in the alternate uniforms. Suddenly, they don’t look so terrible anymore.
- Shouts out to Hasheem Thabeet. Kendrick Perkins had some difficultly containing the towering Hibbert, but Thabeet did a very solid job corralling the Pacer big man. Obviously Thabeet’s extra height helped.
- I liked Westbrook swarming Hibbert on most his first half post touches. Hibbert was just trying to back down Perk, and with that ball bouncing so high because of Hibbert’s 7-2 frame, Westbrook was able to fly in and try and sneak away with steals.
- Last night it was creating off the dribble, tonight it was a backdoor pass to KD. What’s up with you, Serge?
- A night after scoring 17 points and hitting five 3s, Derek Fisher played only eight total minutes, all in the first half. Scott Brooks is just trolling everyone now, I’m convinced.
- All thirteen Thunderers played tonight and there was only one minus on the roster: Derek Fisher, a -1.
- In 28 minutes, Serge Ibaka was solid — 12 points, seven rebounds, a block, steal and assist.
- Kevin Durant is super awesome. Just felt like saying that.
- Westbrook with another big time line: 24 points, seven rebounds, nine assists. And just two turnovers.
- Westbrook’s last three games: 24.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 8.7 assists.
- Do Pacer fans even like Tyler Hansbrough? Does Tyler Hansbrough’s parents even like Tyler Hansbrough?
- Nick Collison got his finger cut in the first half and his blood was EVERYWHERE. Ball boys cleaned it up on the court, it was on his jersey, opposing jerseys, on the scoretable — everywhere.
- If I had a nickel for every time Kevin Martin pump faked and then traveled this season, I’d have like $2.50.
- The Thunder outrebounded the Pacers 51-33 tonight. Aided by the fact Indiana couldn’t make anything, and then couldn’t gather any of their own misses (just nine offensive boards).
- In the first half, Westbrook took a foul 90 feet from the basket so that he could argue with Leroy Richardson about a call. And then he picked up a tech for it.
- Hang on, I’ve got Nick Collison’s blood all over my keyboard.
- Melo dropped 41 tonight, but with 34, KD will carry the scoring lead into Sunday’s game. Durant is at 28.36842 to Melo’s 28.32258. There’s this though: KD, in 14 more games, has attempted 1,361 shots. Melo, 1,358.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Who’s the big man down there? I’ve got Joey Crawford’s bee-hind in my way.”
Next up: Home against the Knicks on Sunday.