Coming into this game, the Pacers and the Heat were tied at 54-26, though Indiana owned the tie-breaker. Still, nothing invigorates a team quite like beating the tar out of a really good opponent in the last home game of the season, and that’s precisely what the Pacers were planning today. They had all the ingredients: board dominance, shooting over 50 percent, and a capacity crowd. And up until the last five minutes, the formula was working nicely. Then the Thunder put together a 7-0 run Russell Westbrook knocking down a trey and assisting on two more, to tie the game. Undeterred, the Pacers came back, and in the last minute held a three-point lead; a Lance Stephenson jumper put the game out of reach, and free throws one from George Hill, three from David West, one from C. J. Watson salted it away, 102-97, splitting the season series and sending the Thunder away still looking for a place to clinch the #2 seed in the West.
Nine Pacers hit the floor, and six of them made double figures; Stephenson rang up a triple-double on 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. West led the attack with 21 points, though Watson and Paul George were right behind with 20 each. Indiana shot 52 percent from the floor, 45 percent from outside, and, as mentioned, outrebounded OKC, 46-32. The Pacers are hard to beat when they’re playing their own game, and for the most part, the Thunder were unable to keep them from doing it.
Still, the Thunder generated spurts of offense, led by (of course) Kevin Durant with 38; Russell Westbrook added 21, and Serge Ibaka dropped in 11. Caron Butler came up with 13 from the bench; Reggie Jackson was rather badly pounded in what was deemed a sub-flagrant foul and was held to eight. OKC shot only 42 percent from the floor, 25 (7-28) from the outside, but somehow managed to hold on to the ball: consistent with recent trends, they committed only nine turnovers.
It’s tomorrow night in the Big Easy for another shot at clinching #2; after that, a lone home game with the Pistons, and the playoffs begin next weekend against [insert as-yet-undetermined team name here].