The Indiana Pacers needed an extra five minutes to secure their first road win of the season, holding on to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pacers led for most of the night, by as many as 15 in the third quarter, but Russell Westbrook led the Thunder back in the fourth, drilling a stone cold three to force overtime.
The Pacers came away with the win in overtime, but had to overcome Myles Turner turning his ankle and on-cue turnovers from Monta Ellis. Turner came down on Westbrook after blocking a shot, but remained in the game, helping the team down the stretch, finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds. Turner was just 2-8 from the floor, but 11-12 from the free throw line.
Ellis on the other hand had an up and down game, scoring 12 points with seven assists, but whenever he made a positive play for the Pacers, he gave it right back with one of his eight turnovers. Ellis had three turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime, each coming after the Pacers caught a break, though fortunately for Indiana, they weren’t forced to pay for those mistakes.
Jeff Teague led the way with 30 points, nine assists, and six steals. Teague looked every bit the All-Star Indiana acquired, going toe-to-toe with Westbrook throughout the night. Westbrook scored 31, needing 34 shots to get there while Teague went 9-16 from the floor, a perfect 9-9 from the line, and putting in three three pointers.
If there was a difference in their games, early engagement from Teague helped get Indiana off to a quick start. Teague had seven of Indiana’s first nine points, as Indiana capitalized early and often on Oklahoma City mistakes, finishing with 23 points off of 20 Thunder turnovers.
Indiana played to their margin of error tonight with Paul George, C.J. Miles, and Kevin Seraphin missing action. That included taking advantage of Oklahoma City mistakes, or rather, not allowing their own mistakes to be pitted against them. The Pacers played hard, but weren’t sharp. They had 22 turnovers as a team and allowed 15 offensive rebounds, but also pulled in 15 offensive rebounds of their own to go along with 13 steals.
The hustle play was highlighted by Thaddeus Young, who scored a double double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Young’s fight was the extra edge Indiana needed to come away with the win. Young led the Pacers with four offensive rebounds, his final coming in the closing seconds of the fourth to give Teague a chance to push Indiana ahead by three, though three missed free throws late in the fourth on Young’s end helped put Indiana in an overtime situation.
Glenn Robinson III had a breakout game of sorts, logging 45 minutes and securing his first career double double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Robinson was just 6-14, but hit a pair of three pointers and looked poised for his time on the floor. There are signs of growth and with Indiana’s wing rotation currently hobbled, that growth is going to be crucial to Indiana finding success with the difficult schedule ahead.
Aaron Brooks led the bench with 10 points, hitting a pair of big three pointers as part of 11 for the team. After going just 1-7 against Phoenix, the Pacers made three pointers a larger focus, shooting 11-22 on the night. They weren’t resigned to three pointers, however, as they shot 31 free throws as a team, 13 more than the Thunder.
The Phoenix game aside, the Pacers have continued to trend in a positive direction, with greater focus on defense and more defined roles for the team, but for a roster that has a number of deficiencies, the common trend is in their effort. The Pacers have proven what is generally the case for every team; bring it, and you’ll be there late.
The Pacers improve to 3-1 in overtime games this season and despite some struggles in closing quarters, they haven’t allowed games to slip through their grasp the same way last year’s team did and it will be important to come away with wins like this to offset frustrating losses early in the season.
Speaking of losses, Indiana will be given the unenviable task of fighting against one tomorrow night when they host the Golden State Warriors. Indiana is 0-2 on the second night of a back-to-back, and with George and Miles already ruled out of tomorrow night’s game and Turner coming up with a sprained ankle (though he will attempt to play), it will take replicating tonight’s effort while limiting tonight’s mistakes to keep pace with their embarrassment of riches.