Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 1:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Game Rewind: Pacers 102, Thunder 97
Scott Agness | April 13, 2014
The Pacers’ regular-season finale featured numerous storylines, headlined by the need for this team to find itself. With two games remaining and the top seed in the Eastern Conference still undecided, the Pacers hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder in an afternoon showing televised nationally on ABC.
Up by just three with less than a minute to play, David West recognized the play the Thunder called, moved off his man and swiped Kevin Durant’s 3-point attempt. Out of a 20-second Pacers timeout, Lance Stephenson let a deep shot fly and it dropped, then he raced down the court and slapped hands with coach Frank Vogel.
It was then about free throws for the Pacers (55-26). They’d step to the line eight times, hitting five of them, while getting stops at the other end. The Thunder (58-22) made it interesting, however, when Serge Ibaka and Durant connected on consecutive 3-pointers, the latter with 9.5 seconds left to draw within two.
Three Pacers had 20-plus points, Stephenson recorded his league-leading fifth triple-double of the season, and two reserves finished with season-best outputs. Despite 23 turnovers, the Pacers finished off the Thunder, 102-97, snapping a three-game skid in the series.
Getting off to a great start was an early key for the Pacers. They moved ahead by six early, but then turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions leading to six easy points for the Thunder. Later, Pacers backup point guard C.J. Watson came in off the bench and buried back-to-back 3-pointers. He had the Pacers’ offense moving, and was confident in his own shot, finishing with a season-high 20 points. Kevin Durant scored 12 in the opening period, but the Pacers had the one point lead.
Watson added another deep 3-pointer in the second quarter, along with a left-handed layup plus the free throw, but the quarter belonged to reserve forward Luis Scola. He made three layups and connected on two long jumpers as all 10 of his points were scored in the second frame. Indiana’s lead was two at intermission, 47-45.
Paul George played all 12 minutes in the third period and racked up 10 points and seven rebounds while he managed his foul trouble. The Pacers had an eight-point lead through three quarters, where on the season they were 45-3 when on top heading into final period. It also became clear at this time that Stephenson was on his way to a triple-double.
Stephenson, who welcomed another sellout crowd with “Let’s get hyped, and get the W,” on the public address system minutes before tip-off, got back to playing loose and not over thinking. That was a message for the entire team, really, and it paid off.
Tied at 89 with 2:19 to play, a 3-pointer from George put the Pacers on top for good. This was the type of win the Pacers needed, over an excellent Thunder team with so many players contributing. Heading into the playoffs, which begin in less than a week, that’s when a team wants to hit its stride and this is a step in the right direction.
The Pacers, who finished the regular season with a league-best 35-6 home record, now can control their own fate. The long-talked about No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is theirs with a win on Wednesday in Orlando (or a Miami loss, with two games left).
Inside the Numbers
Six Indiana players finished in double figures and for the first time in 11 games (when the starters have been active), Paul George didn’t lead the team in scoring. George finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, his 12th double-double this season, but David West tallied a team-high 21 points on an efficient 9-of-11 shooting. Luis Scola added 10 points, his fourth consecutive game in double figures.
Lance Stephenson’s fifth triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) is a new franchise record, topping Detlef Schrempf, who posted four during the 1992-93 season.
Bench guys C.J. Watson and Ian Mahinmi both set new season-high point totals. Watson was responsible for four of the team’s nine 3-pointers and had 20 points. Mahinmi made all four of his field goals, chipped in 11 points and pulled down five rebounds.
Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, ended the day with 38, his 46th game this season with at least 30. Russell Westbrook was just 3-for-10 from beyond the arc, but flirted with a triple-double: 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Shooting 52.8 percent and scoring 102 points, the Pacers improve to 15-1 when make at least half of their shots and 26-2 when topping the century mark.
Indiana’s 23 turnovers is its highest total since committing a season-high 24 back on Feb. 1 vs Brooklyn.
“I think we’re on the way back to being us again, and tonight’s performance showed that.” – Frank Vogel
“Well, he’s fresher than everybody else first of all. We don’t win this game without C.J. doing what he did. He was just spectacular and you could see how much he means to our team.” – Frank Vogel on C.J. Watson
“I don’t think it was just me. I think it was just the way we were playing. I’m not the cure to it, but we just have to play better, move the ball better We’ve been doing that better the last few games but it’s a good thing I’m back and just trying to help the team.” – C.J. Watson on his absence over the last month
“I just try to be an all-around player, get people in the right spots and make something happen. Just being a team player and we had to get back to that, and I felt like this was the game to do it. … When we play loose and don’t worry about turnovers and just play ball, I feel like it’s an easier game for us.” – Lance Stephenson
“That’s a common play that teams run in the NBA, particular to try to get a quick three. I just sniffed it out at the start of the play, and made a play on the ball.” – David West on his block
“We played good today, but again, it’s about being consistent from here on out.” – Paul George
“We had fun. We were playing with great energy. I’m at my best when I’m at the spot at the right time and guys find me. I got a few easy buckets. It was a good night for me.” – Ian Mahinmi
Stat of the Game
After attempting just five foul shots and being outscored 15-4 at the line in the first half, the Pacers limited the Thunder to three second-half tries.
- Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka was called for a technical foul in the third quarter.
- The Pacers recorded their 28th sellout of the season, the most since the 1999-2000 season — the first year of the Fieldhouse and when the Pacers advanced to the Finals.
- It was Fan Appreciation Day at Bankers Life Fielhouse. Pacers players stayed on the court after the game to sign autographs for fans.
- Sunday’s game, home game No. 41 of the season, was the Pacers’ 28th sellout this season, their second-highest mark in franchise history and the best since the 1999-2000 season.
Wednesday, April 16 at Orlando – 7 p.m. EST