INDIANAPOLIS â€” With each step he took in the fourth quarter and overtime Friday night at Indiana, Jeff Green embodied how stubborn the Oklahoma City Thunder can be.
Playing on a still-gimpy left ankle that has caused him to miss seven games already this season, Green limped his way through an improbable 110-106 overtime victory over the Pacers inside Conseco Fieldhouse.
In a game in which the Thunder needed to overcome seeing its starting center in street clothes, some cold shooting and one sizable matchup problem, nothing characterized the Thunder's courageous effort quite like Green conquering a chilling collision with 2:54 remaining in the extra period.
As he drove to the basket midway through overtime, Green crashed to the floor and clutched his left leg after colliding with a Pacers player. The contact kept Green down, wincing in pain while he rolled around. As he attempted to collect himself, Green slammed the ball in frustration before hobbling to the bench.
But after a timeout, Green returned to the court to sink two free throws that gave the Thunder a 100-98 lead.
At the other end, Green continued to defend Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who owned a 5-inch height advantage over Green and had spent the game's first 28 minutes torching the Thunder. Center Nenad Krstic was inactive because of back spasms, and his replacement, Serge Ibaka, was no match for Hibbert. Green, however, helped limit Hibbert, his former teammate at Georgetown, to just four points and two rebounds in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Hibbert had tallied 15 points and eight rebounds through three quarters, sparking an inside-out attack that baffled the Thunder and led to a 14-point Pacers lead.
â€œHe's a soldier,â€ said Kevin Durant of Green. â€œThat shows how much he wants to win. He's sacrificing his body for the team, because he could have gotten really injured but he stuck with it and got us a good win.â€
The Thunder shot just 38.9 percent for the game. Durant and Green combined to make 13 of 42 shots. OKC's bench scored only eight points on 2-for-14 shooting.
But Russell Westbrook carried the load by scoring a career-high 43 points on 13 of 24 shooting. Westbrook, who a year ago inside Conseco Fieldhouse went scoreless for the only time in his career, made 17 of 18 free throws and added eight rebounds and eight assists.
â€œKD and Jeff started off a little slow, and some nights I've got to figure out a way I can help my team pull out the victory,â€ Westbrook said. â€œI was just trying to start from the paint and work my way out.â€
Westbrook iced the game with four straight free throws inside the final 10 seconds to complete yet another resilient victory for the Thunder.
The Pacers used a 32-21 second quarter to take an eight-point halftime lead. The Thunder then faced a five-point deficit inside of two minutes in regulation and a three-point deficit inside the final minute. And even after the Thunder forced overtime on a three-point play by Durant, and eventually took a two-point lead, Pacers point guard Darren Collison shifted the momentum with a circus layup that tied the game at 102-all with 1:21 remaining.
But Oklahoma City closed out the game on an 8-3 run to move to 11-5.
â€œThat's character building,â€ said Green. â€œThat's something that we've been trying to get better and better at, finishing out games throughout the whole season. And I think tonight's game really set a tone and put us at a level where we want to be.â€
Suddenly, all the numbers that tell the story of a tough-minded team are in the Thunder's favor. OKC is 3-1 after a loss, 2-0 in overtime and 6-1 on the road. The Thunder has also won eight games by seven points or less.
â€œWhen you talk about our team, you like to hear the words toughness and scrappy and fight,â€ said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. â€œWe are improving in those areas. We just want to keep building on that and get our confidence through our toughness.â€