INDIANAPOLIS — It sounds crazy, but the two players who had the biggest impact in powering Indiana to a 103-98 win over the Thunder on Friday night combined for six points on 1-of-5 shooting and played just 28 minutes.
But Tyler Hansbrough and Lou Amundson are the reason the Thunder is now carrying its first three-game losing streak of the season.
Yes, Tyler Hansbrough and Lou Amundson.
The Pacers' two big men were instrumental in shutting down the Thunder's high-octane offense. They took turns trapping the Thunder's pick-and-roll and playing outstanding man defense when forced to switch onto OKC's ball-handlers. Together, they took away the Thunder's first option in half-court sets and made life miserable for Oklahoma City long enough for the Pacers to build a big lead and cruise to their fourth straight win.
“They did a good job,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We didn't do a good job of passing out of it.”
Hansbrough and Amundson made their presence felt immediately. Twelve seconds after Amundson checked into the game for the first time and teamed up with Hansbrough, the Thunder scored on a layup by Nick Collison to cut Indiana's lead to three with 2:57 remaining in the first quarter. From there, the Pacers closed the quarter on an 11-2 run to take a 32-20 lead.
By the time the Pacers' reserve tandem subbed out, the Thunder trailed 39-29 with 5:59 remaining in the second quarter.
The offensive rhythm had been thrown well out of whack, and the Thunder looked dazed and confused.
In those nine minutes, Hansbrough and Amundson shifted every drop of the momentum in the Pacers' favor by unexpectedly controlling Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Derek Fisher out on the perimeter, using surprising footwork to keep them from penetrating and making plays for themselves and others.
Rather than countering with quick and crisp ball movement, the Thunder inexplicably continued to try and succeed by going one-on-one. It played right into the Pacers' hands.
Indiana exploited it and raced to a 56-41 halftime lead, holding the Thunder to its lowest point total in a half this season. The deficit, meanwhile, was three shy of tying the largest the Thunder has seen at the half.