Pacers 121, Thunder 101
News, notes and observations from Sunday’s 121-101 loss at Indiana….
- The Thunder loss this game on the defensive end. The Pacers did whatever they wanted to do offensively, jumping out to an 18-6 lead and shooting 56.5 percent in the first quarter. Indiana shot 51.7 percent for the game, as the Thunder allowed every single player on the Pacers’ roster to do what he does well offensively.
- All five Indiana starters scored in double digits. Four of them had 15 points or more. Three of them had 20 or more.
- The Pacers scored 93 points in three quarter. That’s all you need to know about this one.
- Indiana’s 121 points sets a new opponent season-high for the Thunder. Denver had the mark with 119 points set back on March 3.
- Anyone concerned with the Thunder’s defense? If you’re not, perhaps you should be. That’s now five times in the past nine games that OKC has allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent or better. When the Thunder was playing its best ball, it was consistently locking up teams. Now, it’s hit or miss. And with a brutal schedule in the final 14 games, that can’t be a good trend.
- What stings about this one is that it drops the Thunder into the sixth seed. A loss like this, against a team 22 games below .500, could ultimately be the difference between playing Utah and Dallas or, worse, Denver or the Lakers in the first round.
- Danny Granger was the player of the game. He had a game-high 32 points on 11-for-21 shooting and did a number on Kevin Durant with his defense. He had help in Brandon Rush and Dahntay Jones, but it was Granger who set the tone from the start. He snatched the ball out of Durant’s hands twice as Durant looked to go to work early in the first quarter. From there, KD never could settle into a rhythm.
- Durant actually apologized for his performance after the game: “How we came out was a disgrace to the game of basketball. That starts with me. I apologize to all the fans and all of my teammates that I came out like that.”
- Said Thunder coach Scott Brooks: “We got our butts kicked. They played harder than us from the start and in all four quarters. If you don’t respect your opponent that will happen.”
- After calling Friday’s win at Toronto the best game of the season, Brooks called this outing “one of the lowest performances of the season.”
- For as poorly as Durant shot the ball (4-for-16), I actually saw several signs of growth out of him. Re-watch this game and you’ll see him remaining positive throughout. Not once did he hang his hand. Instead, he encouraged and supported his teammates all game long. When Thabo Sefolosha converted a layup late in the first quarter, drawing a a foul on the play, Durant let out a roar. He was 1-for-6 at the time. He unleashed another shout when Sefolosha started the third quarter with a 3-pointer that cut the Pacers’ lead to 59-51. And he showed more emotion after a layup late in the third that also led to an And One. It was just his third field goal. The Thunder trailed 84-66, and as he returned to the court out of the time surrounded by his teammates he demanded that they step it up. Go back and look at Durant’s 4-for-20 game against Portland three games into the season if you want to see how different his body language was.
- Durant also dug in defensively later in the game despite it being out of hand. He was active in the passing lanes and on the glass. It would be easy to look at his off night offensively and saw he had a bad game. But that wouldn’t be accurate. The way he hung in there and persevered was extremely impressive.
- Russell Westbrook played just 17 minutes because of a stomach virus. He looked and sounded subdued before the game as he stretched out on the trainer’s table. Normally bouncing off the walls, Westbrook barely had his eyes open and when he spoke it was more of a mumble than his normal yell. He said he thinks he ate something bad, and because the game was so early he wasn’t able to shake off his morning sickness. He did say he is confident he’ll be OK come Monday night against San Antonio.
- After turning the ball over twice in the first half Friday at Toronto, the Thunder turned the ball over five times in the first quarter against the Pacers. And the giveaways backfired, as the Pacers turned them into 12 quick points. Indiana scored 26 points off the Thunder’s 16 turnovers.
- The Pacers led by as many as 31 points.
- Eric Maynor was one of the lone bright spots tonight. He created for himself and others and it lead to 15 points and 11 assists. It was Maynor’s second career double-double and the most points he’s scored in a Thunder uniform this season. The best looking play he had came midway through the second when he called Nick Collison to come and set a screen, crossed over in the opposite direction, knifed his way into the lane, created contact with Roy Hibbert with his body and got the layup plus the foul. With so many other offensive weapons, it’s hard for Maynor to create for himself like he did against the Pacers. But I think this game is a good indicator of Maynor’s potential when he is awarded ample freedom.
- Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison played solid as well. Ibaka recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
- Jeff Green’s offensive game is picking up big time with James Harden out. Green was aggressive from the start once again tonight and had a team-high 20 points tonight and has now averaged 20.6 points over the past five games.
- Harden, by the way, went with the bow tie again tonight. I believe it’s the second time he’s rocked the bow tie in the five games that he’s had to wear a suit. And that means I now have to ask him about it. Stay tuned.
- Hibbert absolutely destroyed the Thunder early. Nenad Krstic couldn’t hold him. Green couldn’t hold him. And Collison couldn’t hold him. When Durant was able to draw Hibbert into his third foul with 6:11 left in the second period, the 7-foot-2 big had already scored 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting with four rebounds and two assists.
- Hibbert got into it a little bit with Collison in the second half, flailing his arms when he got annoyed with Collison’s contact. Collison, who I have yet to see lose his composure, never let it escalate and basically just gave him the be cool pat on the back and walked away.
- Pacers fans gave D.J. White a nice ovation when he checked into the game in the fourth quarter. One fan even shouted from the stands, “Put in D.J. White.” Brooks actually did about 20 seconds later, and Pacers fans cheered each of his six points. Indiana loves its Hoosiers.
- Indiana coach Jim O’Brien is the most talkative coach in the league. And it’s not even close. He was barking instructions at his squad like Bob Knight junior. And it lasted the entire game. Even when his team was up 19 in the fourth quarter, he still was up off the bench watching and shouting intently. Dude is intense.
- Larry Bird was in attendance. Every time I glanced over at him, I thought about HBO’s documentary, Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out.
- Westbrook picked up a tech from the bench, apparently for something he said. I was at the opposite end of the court, closer to the Pacers bench, nowhere near an earshot of hearing him. But it must have been something pretty significant because the ref didn’t hesitate to dish out that T.
- Josh McRoberts had two points…and it was a highlight dunk. Pretty much sums up this one.
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