The Indiana Pacers looked like they were heading towards a three-game winning streak, but instead, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant put the Thunder on their backs and rallied for a nail-biting 110-106 OT victory in Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Pacers were up by as much as 14 points in the third, but the Thunder, led by Westbrook’s career high 43 points, shaved nine points off that lead before heading into the final quarter. Durant scored 11 of his 25 points in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime, including some big ones down the stretch, to seal the win for the Thunder.
For the Pacers, Danny Granger led the way with 30, Roy Hibbert had 19 and 10, and Josh McRoberts had 13 and 8 as all five Pacers starters finished in double figures.
I’ll admit, this was another game where I had the feeling that the opponent was going to come all the way back. Westbrook was simply on fire and unstoppable, getting to the basket and the line at will, and Durant felt eerily similar in OT. Every time the Pacers went up by few points, the Thunder would score off a tough basket or get a three-point play to get right back into it. Both Westbrook and Durant had big three-point plays (Westbrook missed the free throw) to keep the Thunder in the game while Darren Collison and Brandon Rush both missed big free throws that could have potentially altered the outcome.
The loss was definitely disappointing, but I hope it’s another one of those “character-building” losses, like the ones they had against the Bucks and the Magic earlier in the season. These were games that a more confident, experienced team would have won, and the Pacers can only learn from these mistakes and become a better team. They should look at the Thunder, cellar dwellars from a few years back, and now considered to be one of the top teams in the West and a future title contender (if not already). The Thunder would have gone through their fair share of disappointing losses in those early years, which is what made them strong enough to come back and take this one from the Pacers.
Knowing this year’s team, the loss won’t keep them down for too long. They’ll keep fighting and keep improving.
It doesn’t get much easier from here. Make or break time is well and truly here, despite how early it is in the season. The Pacers now fall to 7-7 and head on the road now to face the two-time defending champs, the LA Lakers.