Thunder plunders weary Pacers

Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Indiana Pacers' successful five-road trip ended with a thud Sunday night.
The Oklahoma City Thunder proved themselves against the best team in the Eastern Conference, pummeling the Pacers 118-94 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The 118 points was the most the Pacers have surrendered since Jan. 4, 2012 against Miami. Oklahoma City shot 61 percent from the floor (47-for-77) and 95 percent (19-for-20) from the foul line.
"Tonight, obviously for our guys, Oklahoma City was just a step quicker on both ends of the court," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We have to give them credit."
Coming off a hard-fought win over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, the Pacers (18-3) dropped to 4-3 on the second night of back-to-back games. Indiana completed a 3-2 Western Conference trip.
For the Thunder, the win provided more proof that they remain 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."
Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant scored 36 points, shot 14-of-23 from the field, collected 10 rebounds and added five assists. Westbrook added 26 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists.
Guard Paul George fought to keep the Pacers competitive, scoring a team-high 32 points on 9-for-17 shooting. Center Roy Hibbert added 12 points and nine rebounds. However, Hibbert, the NBA's leading shot-blocker, ended the night with no blocks.
"I wouldn't say we had tired legs, but the Thunder definitely knew what they 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 let the game come to him to start games. On Sunday, though, he was in attack mode from the tip-off. 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 first quarter with 14 points, and Oklahoma City (15-4) held a 28-18 advantage.
While the Pacers couldn't buy a basket, even more distressing for Indiana was its 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 while building 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 helped Indiana close the gap from 24 points to 16 early in the fourth quarter.
The Thunder wouldn't allow Indy to get any closer, and the Pacers emptied their bench with 6:35 left in the game.
"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 matchup problem when he gets going. He got going early, and too easy. He just took the game over."
NOTES: Indiana and Oklahoma City are two of the top defensive units in the NBA. Entering Sunday's action, the Pacers' defense led the league, allowing 39.8 percent shooting from the field. The Thunder was third at 42.4 percent, and they limited Indiana to 40 percent shooting. Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks doesn't think his players gets enough for their defense. "With our team, we've been known as just an offensive team that really focuses on scoring the basketball," Brooks said. "But if you look at the last three years, we've won a lot of games with our defense. We've always been that way." ... Indiana coach Frank Vogel raved about the development of G Lance Stephenson. "It's been every bit as much as Paul George's. I don't want to understate that," Vogel said. "They should have finished first and second in Most Improved last year. You can make an argument that Lance is the most improved this year." Stephenson scored eight points Sunday.

What to Read Next