It's not really breaking news that the Oklahoma City Thunder are one hell of a dangerous team. They've got a player with incredible offensive ability in Kevin Durant and a superb playmaker in Russell Westbrook, who each poured it on when the game mattered to make tonight's game look lopsided despite a back and forth first half and a three-point game late in the third quarter.
Of course, when you stare a 2-18 fourth quarter for eight points down the barrel, it's impossible to come back around for the win against a team that can simply turn it up a notch behind Durant. The Thunder deserve a ton of credit for frustrating the Pacers tonight. They dominated the boards early, and won the rebounding edge by 22, including 15 offensive boards.
It was such an uncharacteristic night from the Pacers in that regard that it's tough to really take a whole lot from it, but it's something of a frustrating way to lose to a team when you're beat up at your strengths. And just as was the case as the first matchup, there's a clear difference between where the Pacers are and where the Thunder are. Sometimes, it's as simple as that.
Roy Hibbert was the most effective player for Indiana on both ends tonight, scoring a team high 22 and eight boards. Hibbert was at his best in the third quarter, leading the Pacers back from the brink of an 11-point deficit after being limited in the first half with foul trouble. Hibbert's play continues to evolve, with another 20-point night. While he wasn't able to lift the weight offensively in the fourth quarter, he still showed his improved touch in the game tonight.
David West was the other Pacer of note, scoring 17, getting three steals, and simply doing David West stuff through the game. It wasn't enough to contend with 34 from Kevin Durant and 24 from Russell Westbrook, who didn't even need much support at all to top tonight's Indiana squad. It doesn't hurt Oklahoma City's chances when the Pacers shot just 2-21 from three point range, yet kept throwing them up in their woeful fourth quarter shooting exhibition.
Paul George and George Hill joined forces to go 1-13 on their own, both using three point bricks to build frustrating nights. While George was in a tough spot to begin with against Kevin Durant, which was to be expected, it had a direct effect on George's offensive night, scoring just eight. He did make some plays on defense, but as the Thunder seemed to come up with every loose ball and every favorable call, any positives were quickly swept under the rug by what OKC were able to do.
The fourth quarter erased a lot of positives for Indiana, such as a five-point game and a reasonable shooting night, though it did nothing for whatever happened on the glass tonight as Indiana just got shellacked in a way you just don't see Indiana get beat. The end result was an inflated 22-point loss, a 25-8 fourth quarter loss, and a loss that keeps the magic number for the Central Division at one.
Another win by New York puts Indiana a game and a half back of the second spot with six to play, including a matchup against New York next Sunday. The Pacers may have had their five-game winning streak snapped, but will have a chance to extend their road wins to five as they look to rebound (literally and figuratively) against an upbeat Washington Wizards team tomorrow night.
Are you going to or watching tonight's Pacers game vs. the Thunder? RSVP here and win 2 tickets to an upcoming game.