By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Coming to the end of a five-game road trip, the Indiana Pacers were looking to close it out with a bang. Taking on Oklahoma City in their own court qualified as the bang they were looking for.
However, the Pacers ran head on into a buzzsaw. Looking to prove themselves against the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Thunder pummeled the Indy 118-94 Sunday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The 118 points was the most the Pacers have surrendered since Jan. 4, 2012 against Miami.
For the Thunder, the win provided even more proof they are still one of the elite teams in the NBA.
"It was good,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “For us it brings a lot of self awareness. We know that we can play with the best of them. I think tonight we did a good job of just playing our game.
“We play like that, there aren’t too many teams that can beat us but ourselves.”
Forward Kevin Durant scored 36 points, shot 14-of-23 from the field, collected 10 rebounds and added five assists for Oklahoma City. Westbrook came up short of a triple double with 26 points,
seven rebounds and 13 assists.
“We actually came out tonight with the intention to play stat-free basketball,” Kendrick Perkins said. “And guys still ended up with pretty decent numbers. When you do things the right way, things pretty much fall into place. When you try too hard, that’s when things don’t look too right, things don’t go well for the team. But when you do what you’re supposed to do, things fall in place they way they’re supposed to fall in place.”
Guard Paul George fought to keep the Pacers competitive as he scored a team-high 32 points on 9-for-17 shooting. Center Roy Hibbert added 12 points and nine rebounds. However, the NBA’s leading shot-blocker ended the night with zero blocks.
“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.
But the Thunder wouldn’t allow Indy to get any closer and the Pacers emptied their bench with 6:35 left in the fourth quarter.
“We don’t make excuses,” Pacers forward David West said. “We’ve struggled against them for the last couple of years now, and we just haven’t found a way to make it difficult for them. Durant is just a match-up problem when he gets going. He got going early, and too easy. He just took the game over.”
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