The Indiana Pacers know when they play well defensively, the result is usually a positive one. Doing so, however, isn’t always easy.
The Pacers look for another solid defensive effort as they try to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder winless on the road Monday night.
Indiana (2-3) avoided a third straight loss with a 98-80 home victory over New Jersey on Saturday night. The Pacers, who allowed Phoenix and Cleveland to shoot better than 50 percent in their previous two losses, held the Nets to 38.7 percent from the field, including 24 percent in the second half.
“We need to be aggressive in everything we do defensively,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “Our guys took it upon themselves to kick it into another gear, and when you play with that type of defensive disposition, good things generally happen.”
In two wins this season over Boston and New Jersey, Indiana has allowed 159 points with the opposition shooting 36.6 percent. In three losses where the Pacers have yielded an average of 108.0 points, opponents are shooting 50.2 percent.
“The three games that we lost we could have won but we couldn’t dwell on that,” center Jeff Foster told the Pacers’ official Web site. “We had to continue our strong effort and we will have to do that Monday to get ready for Oklahoma.”
The Pacers have a chance to post consecutive solid defensive efforts while facing Oklahoma City (1-5), which has lost three in a row and is near the bottom of the league shooting 40.8 percent and averaging 86.2 points per contest.
Danny Granger scored 23 points against New Jersey, while Troy Murphy had 17 with 10 rebounds and T.J. Ford just missed a triple-double with 13 points, nine rebounds and nine assists as Indiana improved to 2-1 at home.
The 6-foot-9 Granger, among the NBA ‘s top scorers (26.4), wasn’t nearly as dominant Saturday as he was scoring 33 on 13-for-21 shooting from the field and 5-for-10 from 3-point range in a four-point loss at Cleveland on Friday. Granger has averaged 15.0 points in six games against the Thunder franchise.
Not much has changed on the court in the relocation from Seattle to Oklahoma City for a franchise that finished 20-62 in the Sonics’ final season. The club went 7-34 on the road in 2007-08 and has lost both its away games this season.
The Thunder blew a seven-point fourth-quarter lead in an 89-85 home loss to undefeated Atlanta on Sunday. Kevin Durant had 20 points and rookie Russell Westbrook added 15 for Oklahoma City, which went more than 5 minutes of the fourth without a field goal.
“We’ve got to close games out,” said Durant, who is averaging 19.5 points on the season and 31.0 in two versus Indiana. “I think that’s the main thing, and we’ve got to take care of home floor.”
Durant had 27 on 7-for-14 shooting in a 114-107 loss at Indiana on March 11 in the teams’ most recent contest.
Oklahoma City could be without key reserve Chris Wilcox, who sprained his right knee Sunday. He is averaging 6.3 points and 5.8 rebounds.
The Thunder franchise has won six of the last eight meetings with Indiana.