Five Thoughts: Thunder 107, Pacers 99Getty Images

Five Thoughts: Thunder 107, Pacers 99

The Run

Despite better effort than Monday night in Memphis, the first half against Indiana looked like much of the same from the Thunder — shooting 39 percent in the first two quarters to trail by nine at the halftime break. The Pacers pushed their lead to 11 early in the third quarter, and led 58-48 with 10:48 to go. With the Thunder looking destined for another disappointment, and fans inside Chesapeake Energy Arena growing audibly restless, something snapped and everything changed.

Over nearly the next seven minutes of game time, the Thunder went on the largest run in the NBA this season — outscoring Indiana 24-0 to turn a 10-point deficit into a 14-point lead with four minutes to go in the third. Though it didn’t doom the Pacers for good — they had some chances late — it was a glimpse into what this OKC team is capable of when things fall into place. What was most impressive, however, is how they got it done.

  • Adams off. reb. + hook shot (2-0)
  • Adams putback dunk (4-0)
  • Grant 3-pointer (7-0)
  • Adams floater (9-0)
  • Grant 3-pointer (12-0)

With Russell Westbrook and Paul George combining to shoot 6-of-16 (37.5%) in the first half, the game-shifting outburst was jump-started by Adams and Grant going on a 12-0 run by themselves. In a sign of appreciation for the bailout, George got it rolling from there, as Russ continued serving up open looks and even rattled in a three of his own.

  • George 3-pointer (15-0)
  • Westbrook 3-pointer (18-0)
  • Adams hook shot (20-0)
  • George jumper + foul (22-0)
  • George technical free throw (23-0)
  • George free throw (24-0)

Tyreke Evans finally ended the run with a layup at the 3:57 mark, but the Thunder’s 24 unanswered had long changed the game’s complexion. The run featured 9-of-15 shooting (60%) and 4-of-6 from downtown for OKC, as Adams scored eight, George added seven, Grant had six, and Westbrook drove the bus with three points and four assists. The Pacers went 0-of-14 over the stretch, getting outscored 31-15 in the third and never leading again.

Here’s the run in its entirety:


One Large Kiwi

As if he’d heard everything you’ve said about him lately, Adams laid the smack down on the Pacers — finishing his night with a dominant stat line of 25 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. The performance was quite a bounce back from his 2-point effort in Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies, with the 25 points being the most he’s scored in a game since December 14.

Adams opened the game with a 10-point first quarter, but, more importantly, stayed productive after halftime. When the Thunder fell behind by double-digits early in the third, Big Kiwi steadied the ship by turning two Westbrook misses into points off the offensive glass. The game was teetering on the edge at that point, but the pair of buckets were the first of what eventually became the 24-0 run. After disappearing in the second half too frequently this season, Adams had 11 points and a +25 in the final two quarters as OKC came back to win it.

With Adams shooting an efficient 11-of-14 against Indiana, the Thunder are now 20-7 this season when he attempts at least 12 field goals. That’s a winning percentage of 74 percent, and reason enough to continue looking for ways to get (and keep) him engaged on the offensive end.


JG3

Grant tied a career-high with five makes from long range against the Pacers, going 5-of-8 from deep for the second time in three games. Two of those 3-pointers helped launch the game-altering run, and his last put OKC up eight to effectively end it with 1:13 to go. Another solid, impactful performance for the guy PG13 calls the Thunder’s “x-factor.”

Grant’s line vs Indy:

19 pts, 7 reb, 4 ast, 3 blk, 1 stl, 7/16 FG, 5/8 3P, +11

With Terrance Ferguson hitting 1-of-5 from long range, and the Thunder bench getting outscored by 20 while only mustering 10 combined points (Dennis Schroder shot 0-of-7), Grant’s contributions were undeniably vital. He hasn’t yet proven he can do it every night, but the Thunder seem to find more success when the starting power forward is a threat on the offensive end.

In OKC’s 43 wins this season, Grant has made 53 percent of his shots and 44 percent of his 3-pointers. In the 30 losses, he’s shot 46 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three — giving that “x-factor” thing some weight. If Grant can string some of these performances together in the playoffs, the Thunder will become a much more difficult out. You have to love the direction the 25-year-old is moving in.


The Russ You Need?

Westbrook scoffed at the idea of shooting in the first half against Indiana, scoring three points on 1-of-4 from the field as the Thunder trailed by eight at the break. He opened the third quarter with an errant attempt from three, then picked up a delay of game penalty a minute later as the Pacers appeared poised to pull away. But the former MVP locked in when the 24-0 run began — posting five points, five rebounds, four assists, and a block from that point forward in the third as the Thunder seized control.

The Brodie finally found his offense in the fourth, scoring nine points on 3-of-5 shooting to shut it down. He wrapped up with his 29th triple-double of the 2018-19 campaign — the Thunder’s 20th win of the season when he messes around as such. Perhaps most impressively, he turned it over just twice.

Westbrook’s final line:

17 pts, 11 reb, 12 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 2 TO, 6/15 FG, 2/4 3P

Westbrook’s scoring has been up since the All-Star break — field goal attempts, too. His shooting has improved to acceptable levels, which you’d think would be a good thing, but most of the Thunder’s success this season has come with their point guard in the go-do-everything-but-score-a-bunch role. When Russ is in triple-double territory, active on defense, and his teammates are knocking down their shots, good things tend to happen and the Thunder offer glimpses into their potential.

With Adams going Baby Shaq, Grant turning into Reggie Miller, and George doing what he does, Westbrook was probably at his optimum level in terms of team basketball on Wednesday night. Keeping him in that range has as much to do with teammates making shots as it is his willingness to play that way, but these low-scoring triple-doubles are a great indicator of the Thunder firing on all cylinders. Shooting has been a team-wide issue since the All-Star break, and Westbrook elevated his offense accordingly. The two most recent wins are examples of what happens when he gets the support needed to feel comfortable stepping back and impacting the game elsewhere.


Everything Else

  • George shook off a slow start to lead the Thunder in scoring, dropping 31 points on 12-of-25 shooting and a 4-of-13 clip from downtown. He didn’t add much else in terms of counting stats — four rebounds, one assist, one steal — but contributed 12 points in that wild third quarter and finished as a +17. It was the sort of scoring effort OKC likely needs from him every time out down the stretch and into the playoffs. He just needs to stay healthy — the guy stays wrapped in ice and said after the game he’s felt banged up.
  • Ferguson didn’t do much to make fans feel better about his shooting slump, going 2-for-9 on the evening and 1-of-5 from 3-point range. However, in the most Andre Roberson-esque stat of the evening, he finished the night as a +18 in 38 minutes. Solid night for the young man, though he does need to be more of a threat on offense if the Thunder are going to find their early-2019 offense once more.
  • Schroder had scored 20+ in three of the four games leading into last night, but was a complete non-factor in his 21 minutes against the Pacers. He shot 0-of-7 from the floor, 0-of-2 from three, and finished with just three points. It was an awful night for the Thunder bench in general, combining for just 10 points on 23 percent shooting. Won’t win many games that way.
  • As with the recent win in Toronto, it’s all about what happens now for the Thunder. We know how good they can be, how bad they can be, and how impossible it is to predict which team will show up on any given night. The win over Indiana was important, and that 24-0 run was promising — but it’s all for naught if the team doesn’t build on it.