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Thunder prevent Pacers from clinching division title

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers have to wait at least another night to win their first division title in nine years.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, meanwhile, continued to make their move to the top spot in the Western Conference.

The Thunder played spoiler for the Pacers in a 97-75 Oklahoma City victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday night.

"We came out and played well tonight," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We played with a lot of force and we played with a lot of commitment on the defensive end. We are playing one of the best teams in their building. They were playing good basketball."

The Pacers didn't get any help from the Orlando Magic, either, because the Chicago Bulls beat them Friday.

The Pacers will get another chance to win the division when they play at Washington on Saturday.

"We have to have a short memory," Pacers coach Vogel said. "This league is about having a short memory. We have to bounce back. We have to play a great game (at Washington)."

The win pulled the Thunder even with the San Antonio Spurs for first in the Western Conference, but the Thunder own the tiebreaker between the two teams.

"At this point and time we can only worry about our schedule," Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. "It's important, but in the playoffs you have to be able to win on the road anyway."

The Pacers had no answer for Oklahoma City's two All-Stars, Kevin Durant and Westbrook. Durant scored 34 points and Westbrook added 24 points.

Center Roy Hibbert led the Pacers with 22 points. Pacers All-Star Paul George was held to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.

"It was real disappointing,"George said. "I felt like we came out and laid an egg."

The Thunder, who are a matchup problem for almost every team in the league, blew the game open in the third quarter. The Thunder used a 10-2 run midway through the quarter to take an 11-point lead.

The Pacers didn't go away, getting back to within three late in the quarter.

But the Thunder were never really threatened by the Pacers despite their run.

Up seven points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Thunder doubled their lead barely three minutes into the quarter. The more Durant shot, the more the Thunder increased their lead.

Oklahoma City eventually led by as many as 22 points.

Durant had 15 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter.

"Westbrook and Durant, if you're not exceptional on the ball against those guys, they will burn you," Vogel said. "They burned us."

The Thunder dominated the boards, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds. The Pacers were only 2-of-21 on 3-pointers and were held to eight points in the fourth quarter.

"They are a different caliber team than we are, and they proved that in the fourth quarter," Pacers power forward David West said. "You have to give them credit, that's an NBA championship-caliber team."

NOTES: Pacers forward Danny Granger had surgery on his left knee Thursday. Granger, who only played five games this season, is expected to be ready for the start of training camp, the Pacers announced. ... ESPN decided not to broadcast the Pacers-Thunder game in favor of Miami-Charlotte despite the Heat's 27-game winning streak ending. "It's disappointing for me from a fan's standpoint," Vogel said. ... Finishing ahead of the Spurs is not a specific goal for the Thunder. "It definitely would be a nice thing to get but it's not the end-all," Brooks said. "We just want to keep playing good basketball. If we get it, great. If not, we feel like we can win on anybody's court."... The Pacers could have wrapped up the division if Brooklyn had beaten Chicago on Thursday, but the Bulls came from behind to win. "It's OK, there's something to be said for doing it yourself," Vogel said...Hibbert's 22 points marked the fourth time in the past five games that he's scored at least 20 points in a game...The Pacers are now 1 1/2 games behind the New York Knicks for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

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