I guess you could call it a surprise. The Thunder were coming off two straight losses and the Pacers had won three in a row, though two of them were quite shaky (against the Rockets and Knicks).
I expected Durant and Westbrook to explode on the Pacers like they did last season, but the Pacers surprised me with their execution and resilience today as they raced out to a 24 point lead before holding off the Thunder, 103-98. I knew the game would be close, even when the Pacers were up by more than 20. The Thunder are just that kind of team — no matter what the score was, I could see the fire in their eyes. They were going to just keep attacking until the final buzzer.
Fortunately for the Pacers, a full team effort led by Danny Granger’s 26 points and Roy Hibbert’s 21 and 12 (plus 4 blocks) was enough to get it done. Paul George had a career high 16 rebounds, even though he only scored 8 and fouled out; David West had 14, and Darren Collison backed up his best performance of the season (17 and 11 against the Wiz) with 11 points, including a massive dagger over Derek Fisher with the clock winding down in the 4th quarter to give the Pacers a 6 point lead with seconds to go and essentially ice the game.
Best win of the season? The fact that I need to think about it means the Pacers have a few great victories to choose from. I just hope they have not peaked too early. They need to keep up this momentum tomorrow night against a highly dangerous Celtics team, the one team I would not want the Pacers to face in the first round.
At the moment the 34-21 Pacers are 3rd in the East with 11 more games to go. A third seed finish would mean that even if they win their first round match-up they would likely face the Miami Heat in the second round. A fifth seed finish (they can’t be the fourth seed, even though they can have homecourt advantage in the first round) means they could face either Atlanta, the Celtics or Philly in the first round, and probably the Bulls in the second. It’s going to be rough either way, but the possibilities are making this particular fan very excited.