Roy Hibbert got by his defender, caught the ball in the paint and had a clear path to the basket.
Until he didn't.
Russell Westbrook swooped in and swatted away the big fellow's shot.
“I thought the game changed when he blocked ... Hibbert,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Did it ever.
On a night when the Thunder found itself locked in a grinder with the defensive-minded Pacers, it was the boys in blue who turned into defensive Dobermans and won going away.
Thunder 104, Pacers 93.
People might talk about Kevin Martin's big first half or Kevin Durant's monster fourth quarter or Westbrook's offense down the stretch. But the Thunder won this game because of defense.
It started with that Westbrook block.
Up until that point late in the fourth quarter, the Thunder defense had been suspect much of the night. Even though the Pacers were without injured All-Star forward Danny Granger and came into The Peake with limited firepower, they shot 60.0 percent in the first half.
Brooks let his guys know it, too.
“Coach really got after us,” Durant said. “Our first half was one of the worst we've played this year.”
Westbrook said, “The second half was a little different.”
Maybe more than a little.
After Paul George hit a 3-pointer with 5:26 left in the game and cut the Thunder lead to three, the Pacers never scored another basket. Heck, they didn't even manage to take that many shots. The Thunder allowed the Pacers only offensive rebound and just seven shots, and they missed every single one of those attempts.
Of course, the Pacers had some help on a couple of those misses, starting with that Westbrook block.
“Man, that's what he does,” Durant said. “Then he came back and got a steal on David West and then another steal.”
True enough. Westbrook followed his block with a steal, then forced George Hill to rush a 3-point attempt.
It spurred his teammates.
George had a shot blocked by Serge Ibaka. Ian Mahinmi was forced to take a tough runner that missed.
All the while, the Thunder offense was feeding off its defense. After Westbrook blocked Hibbert, he hit a jumper. After Westbrook stole the ball from West, he hit another jumper.
“We didn't want to be sluggish like the Lakers game where we had a lead and we kind of let them come back,” Westbrook said of the way Friday night's game vs. Los Angeles ended. “We learned from that.”
Thunder wingman Thabo Sefolosha said of Sunday night: “It was just basically refusing to let one slip away. For three quarters, we didn't play very good basketball. But at the end, we were able to pull it off.”
Brooks calls those late-game situations moments of truth. You either bow up and win, or you bow down and lose.
“We really have to lock in, all five guys,” Brooks said.
Before the game Sunday night, Brooks called the Pacers the best defensive team in the NBA.
Turns out, his guys can be pretty good, too.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.