Final Score: Thunder 110, Pacers 106
Points: Westbrook 43, Durant 25, Danny Granger 30
Rebounds: Green 14, Sefolosha 10, Hibbert & Dunleavy 10
Assists: Westbrook 8, Darren Collison 5
Some ugly halftime stats:
- Durant – 2-10 shooting
- Green 3-11 shooting
- 33% team shooting, 2-9 on threes
- Team assists – 7
- Pacers – 58% on 3-pointers
- Pacers 14 team assists
So why did I kind of love this game?
The Thunder reversed the trend that they had fallen into the last few games of starting hot and then losing their way. Granted, it came at the expense of actually playing well as a team for most of the game. Westbrook was the only player that was consistently outstanding (43-8-8-3 against 3 TO’s); Durant and Green were off most of the night (combined 13-42 shooting), and the team got little bench support. To be perfectly blunt, Durant for most of the game was an offensive liability. They trailed by eight at the half, and 14 early in the third. However, instead of folding, they began to have meaningful possessions. Teams come back from double-digit deficits by having meaningful possessions, by playing defense, and by rebounding.
- The Thunder go to the line an astonishing 41 times in this game, compared to 24 for the Pacers. They weren’t shooting well as a team, but they produced points through deliberate offense.
- The team played sound defense in the second half. Right around the time Roy Hibbert started looking like Hakeem Olajuwon, the team realized that it was failing in its defensive toughness and started defending the rim much better. Westbrook and Sefolosha began to play tenacious defense on the perimeter, getting steals and defensive stops. The Pacers’ 3 point looks diminished.
- The team had what I believe is a season-best 57 rebounds, 16 of which came on the offensive glass. It was noted that the Pacers were a great rebounding team, but the Thunder dominated them on the boards. Green, struggling offensively all night, did an outstanding job in collecting 14 boards, five of them offensive. Westbrook had eight, Sefolosha had 10 for a nifty double-double from the shooting guard spot, Durant had eight, and Harden chipped in with six off the bench. When we look back at this game, we will remember that the Thunder won this game by committing to the glass.
There were a few missteps down the stretch that could have derailed things. Harden had a couple costly turnovers due to sloppy ball handling, Westbrook missed a free throw that could have given them a one point lead, and Harden failed to box out on a Pacers free throw with a minute to go in OT, allowing the Pacers another shot to take the lead (to name several). However, these setbacks were endured through continued defensive effort. I love watching a team accept its errors and fight even more to overcome them.
Lastly, the night belonged to Westbrook. He kept them in the game all night long, knowing that Durant was not in sync. He took good shots and did not force the one-on-one situation like has in the past. Yet, he know that if they were to win, Durant would have to contribute. So with the game on the line, even though Durant was terrible from the field, there Westbrook was, feeding Kevin the ball and Durant willing himself into the lane for key buckets, including a 3-point play that tied the game with 47 seconds to go in the 4th. Westbrook trusted in Durant to make the plays when it mattered, and Durant responded with his most aggressive offense of the night. The two of them finished the Pacers off in OT, scoring 12 of the team’s 14 points to close out the Pacers.
In short, the Thunder faced their biggest challenge – themselves – and they figured it out. Ugly can look pretty good.
Next game: Sunday November 28 at Houston Rockets, tipoff at 7:00PM EST