By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — After the hype and drama of playing the L.A. Lakers on Friday, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks didn’t know exactly what he would see from his team Sunday. Even though he knew Indiana would be a tough matchup, he was concerned his squad wouldn’t come out with the necessary excitement level needed to take on a physical Pacers squad.
Brooks was right to be worried. The Thunder played lackluster throughout most of the night but found a way to grind out a 104-93 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“When you have the Lakers in town Friday, excitement was in the building. That’s always a fun game when you play the Lakers,” Brooks said. “I was a little concerned with an emotional letdown. But our guys fought through it and came back.”
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin combined for 72 points to lead Oklahoma City (17-4) to its eighth win in a row and the 12th consecutive contest it has topped the century mark. But it took a strong fourth quarter for them to keep both streaks alive.
The Pacers (10-11) entered the night last in the NBA in scoring at only 90.7 points per game. With Danny Granger still injured, they have only a few options they can turn to for consistent scoring.
However, Indiana has hung its hat on its defense this year. It’s first in fewest points allowed. Because of that, coach Frank Vogel liked his team’s chances of at least slowing down the league’s highest-scoring team.
The plan worked for the Pacers until Durant decided to take over. With Paul George and George Hill guarding him, the NBA’s second-leading scorer forced his will on the game. He scored 10 points in the fourth to open up the lead.
But it was Westbrook who got the Oklahoma City fans on their feet when he blocked a Roy Hibbert dunk attempt that caused Hibbert to fall to the ground. Westbrook then hit three consecutive jumpers in Hibbert’s face to put the game away.
“The game was in the balance the last five minutes,” Brooks said. “I thought the game changed when he blocked Hibbert’s shot. That turned the game. That sparked our guys, gave us extra energy going into that last four or five minutes. Those are the plays Russell can make.”
David West paced Indiana with 21 points and nine rebounds. George added 17 points and eight rebounds.
“We knew to beat this team, we had to put up points as well,” George said. “Our defense can only hold up for so long. We thought they did a great job. Those guys are special players and made big shots.”
Durant led all scorers with 27 points on only nine-for-24 shooting. But he racked up eight rebounds and four assists. Westbrook added 21 points, and Martin came off the bench to chip in 24.
“I just tried to bury him in the post and I made a few,” Durant said. “I just tried to be aggressive. I started the game off with two airballs and I got my mind ready that it was going to be a tough game for me shooting-wise. I just tried to come through when the team needed me.”
The Thunder trailed the Pacers for much of the first quarter as West had his way on the front line. But Oklahoma City’s bench came in and turned a six-point deficit into a 25-22 lead by the end of the period.
However, Indiana chipped away at Oklahoma City’s 10-point lead in the second quarter and got the deficit down to 57-56 at the half.
Martin had a quiet game Friday against the Lakers, but he came out firing against the defensive-minded Pacers. He posted 22 points in 14 minutes of action on six-for-seven shooting in the first half.
“I was just being aggressive and just doing what I’ve been doing for years,” Martin said. “It was just one of those games where you kind of felt it.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org
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