The Indiana Pacers have had better nights. One glance at the score will tell you that pretty easily, but for all the positives overflowing from their win last night in San Antonio, they were all tilted in the home team's favor tonight as the Oklahoma City Thunder had very little trouble piling on the Pacers in a convincing 118-94 victory. Though, it wasn't exactly a surprising outcome. It was evident early the Pacers weren't on point and it was equally obvious that the Thunder were.
So it escalated quickly, got out of hand, and became a loss from about the moment they fell behind double figures. Despite coming up on the wrong side of the scoreboard all night, there were a couple of positive stretches for the Pacers. Their early second quarter play showed a greater sense of urgency. They had the ball with a chance to cut the lead to six, but a missed layup by C.J. Watson turned into a 7-0 run for the Thunder that pretty much sealed Indiana's fate.
On the night, Oklahoma City shot a blistering 61% from the floor, a glorious team wide effort in shooting that even spot on Pacers defense could only do so much to contend with. The Thunder had eight players take multiple shots, only Jeremy Lamb's 2-6 shooting was below 50% for any of those players. On the other side of the ball, 12 Pacers had multiple shots and only Paul George went above 50% for the night. For the team, it was a night long fight to simply get to 40%.
George did his best to carry the Pacers back from the brink of a 30-point deficit, scoring 26 second half points as part of his team high 32. He had five rebounds and three steals on the night, getting to the line 11 times, cutting the lead to 16 with 10 minutes left in the fourth before the Thunder returned with Kevin Durant, who made quick work on the offensive end. Durant was an offensive juggernaut as expected, scoring 36 on 14-23 shooting, but life's pretty easy for Durant when he's able to conserve all of his energy for the offensive side of the floor by spending his time hiding out defensively on Ian Mahinmi.
Despite George doing his best to cancel out Durant's scoring (while playing defense), the Pacers had no answer for Russell Westbrook, who scored 26 on 11-17 shooting, dishing 13 assists on the night. Truthfully, the Pacers didn't have an answer for anyone, not Serge Ibaka, not Reggie Jackson, not even Kendrick Perkins who was 2-2 for four points, but it was Westbrook that provided the extra push the Thunder needed to cruise to victory.
Roy Hibbert had 12 points and nine rebounds, but didn't record a block. Mahinmi filled in the block department with a pair to go along with four rebounds in a night the bench simply wasn't making much impact. David West was the third Pacer in double figures with 11 on the night, but was also the team high with four turnovers. Indiana had just 14 turnovers on the night, but did their best on four straight possessions late in the third quarter, turning it over all four times as the Thunder rode a 9-0 run to jump up 28. The backcourt play was fairly nondescript. Lance Stephenson had eight as the highlight, but George Hill struggled on just 2-8 shooting, Donald Sloan went 1-4 himself, and Orlando Johnson had two points on 0-3 shooting.
So the Pacers drop to 18-3, finishing their West coast trip 3-2, which is still counts a positive trip considering the difficulty involved. Maybe somewhat surprisingly, the Pacers actually drop to 4-3 in back-to-backs this season, which would be a concern if there were back-to-backs in the playoffs and if they were playing road games in Chicago, Portland, and Oklahoma City every time. As it stands, their next back-to-back will be at Brooklyn on December 23, which happens to be a back-to-back they already won in November. There's little time, want, or reason to linger on tonight's game. The Pacers simply got trumped by a Thunder team eager to go at home. The one regret coming from the game is that Indiana won't get an opportunity for revenge until April 13, which has the chance to be a game the Pacers will be resting for heading into the playoffs.
In the more immediate future, the Pacers finally return home to face none other than the Miami Heat for the first time in the 2013-14 season. The Tuesday tipoff at home will be a 7:00 Eastern tip, and will be seen out of market on NBA TV thanks to the NBA TV Fan Night voters. The regular season might be a formality for these two, but the value of home court will certainly fuel a top tier showdown on Tuesday.