There’s got to be some reason why the Thunder can’t shoot these days, and that’s the least-painful excuse I can think of: the Pacers played good but not great defense, rebounds and turnovers were about even, and while Indiana was formidable from beyond the arc, sinking eight treys in 21 tries Troy Murphy hit all six of his none of this explains how it is that, for instance, Nenad Krstić went 1-for-13, and the Thunder didn’t climb much above 40 percent until the starters were safely tucked into the locker room. It was Indiana 117, Oklahoma City 99, in front of the 16th sellout crowd at the Ford this season, the Pacers hitting 50 percent from the floor and 84 from the foul line.
We could argue, I suppose, that having been knocked out of a playoff spot back in February, this is the time to pull off a few experiments. Shaun Livingston got a couple more minutes than Russell Westbrook, and performed about the same: Livingston had 10 points, five assists, seven rebounds and two steals, while Westbrook had 11 points, four assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Rookie forward D. J. White, after spending most of the year recovering from surgery and then bouncing between here and Tulsa, actually got to play tonight, and he knocked down 14 points (7 of 8!) in 18 minutes. The Three Musketeers were in double digits, though two of them just barely: besides Westbrook’s 11, Jeff Green managed 11, and Kevin Durant, who didn’t play the fourth quarter at all, came in with around his season average of 25.
Meanwhile, all five Indiana starters broke double figures, as did sixth man T. J. Ford. Murphy, king of the three-ball, had 22; Danny Granger, who didn’t hit from downtown, still got 24. The Pacers, despite a 33-44 record, are technically still in the hunt for a playoff spot, though they’re about four games out of eighth place with five to play and will require something miraculous to happen. Still, if they keep playing like this nothing fancy, just solid roundball it’s not impossible.
The Thunder have six games left: San Antonio (Tuesday), at Denver (Wednesday), Charlotte (Friday), and then three on the road, the Bucks, the Blazers and the Clippers. Let’s hope the Spurs Jinx still works.