The Indiana Pacers once again came up big in the second half to secure their seventh straight victory, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder at home. The Pacers shot under 30% in the first half, fortunate to only be down 11, with 10 offensive rebounds helping to salvage possessions for Indiana to keep the game from getting out of hand.
Once in the second half, however, the defense stiffened, leading to an impressive third quarter win. The Pacers outscored Oklahoma City 32-18 in the third, setting up a thrilling fourth quarter. Indiana led by nine with under five minutes to go in the fourth, watched their lead dissipate on an 8-0 run by the Thunder. With 1:20 left and Indiana leading by one, Paul George pulled up with a huge jumper to push the lead back to three.
The final minute of the game would be decided by stops, with Oklahoma City missing five three point attempts, including back-to-back attempts by Russell Westbrook in the game’s closing seconds. All in all, the Pacers wrapped up an impressive second half by outscoring the Thunder 52-38 with both teams being limited to just 20 points in the fourth.
The misses also summed up a statistical oddity of a game. Both teams struggled offensively despite ample opportunity. Neither team finished at 40% shooting leading to a total of 33 offensive rebounds. Oklahoma City finished with 20, but could only score 13 off of those rebounds, outscoring the Pacers 13-6. All told, however, the Thunder had 24 extra rebounds in the game, dominating on both ends 61-37.
The 13 offensive boards for Indiana, as well as 17 points off of 16 Thunder turnovers, helped create just enough chances for Indiana to overcome their deficits. Even the free throw line, a trusty ally for the Pacers, resulted in a 19-29 night, but the Thunder also struggled, barely shooting above 70%, giving Indiana a crucial four point edge.
George led the way for Indiana with 21 points despite shooting just 7-20. He scored seven in the fourth, coming up with eight rebounds (four offensive) in the game to lead the Pacers. The extra hustle from George was noticeable with team highs in assists (four) and steals (three).
Jeff Teague pitched in with 17 points, hitting a pair of threes with C.J. Miles coming up with a three as well. The makes were big considering neither team found much success from three; the Pacers finished 8-26 and Oklahoma City just 7-28. Contesting shots was a big boost for Indiana’s defense, leading to nine blocks, four of which came from Myles Turner, with both Lavoy Allen and Kevin Seraphin getting a pair as well.
Rodney Stuckey returned to action, scoring nine off the bench and hitting all five of his free throws. More notably was his ability to survive a game without suffering an injury, helping the Pacers bench to a 35-23 win over the Thunder’s. Al Jefferson had his shot working as part of his eight point, five rebound night.
The leader off the bench, however, was Glenn Robinson III, who had 14 points on 5-5 shooting with three threes. Robinson was the only Pacer to shoot above 50% on the night, giving Indiana some much needed reliability in scoring.
The Pacers move to 29-22 on the season, still in 6th, but now sit just one game out of 4th place after the streaking Wizards fell at home to Cleveland. Indiana will find themselves in the same position as Washington on Wednesday, when they put their seven game winning streak on line against the visiting Cavaliers.