OKLAHOMA CITY —
“I wouldn’t say we had tired legs, but the Thunder definitely knew what we were up against,” George said. “They knew this was a back-to-back night for us. They came out with urgency to really run us and see if we could compete and match their energy.”
Several times this season, Durant has let the game come to him to start games. But looking to set a tone against the best team in the Eastern Conference, he was in attack mode from the opening jump ball. The three-time scoring champion scored nine of the Thunder’s first 11 points as he had his jump shot going while also driving to the rim for contested layups.
Durant ended the period with 14 points and Oklahoma City (15-4) held a 28-18 advantage.
While they couldn’t buy a basket, even more distressing for the Pacers was their inability to get stops. The Pacers are the top defensive team in the league statistically, and frustration could be seen on the faces of forward David West, Hibbert and George as they watched the Thunder get virtually any shot they wanted.
"Anybody who's guarding me, I take it personal," Durant said. "Paul George is a great defender, but I feel as if I get to my spots and do everything and play hard and forceful, I can score whenever I get the ball. That’s how confident I am with myself.”
Oklahoma City held a 19-point halftime lead.
The Pacers came out of halftime looking to feed George and get him started. After being held to six first-half points, the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer needed to get rolling if his team was going to get back into the game.
With his team trailing by 24 points, George helped close the gap to 92-76 early in the fourth period.