Breaking through in Circle City

Alex Roig predicted in the Pregame Primer: “This just feels like a game where [Paul] George will get hot from deep. Maybe 30+ points on 5+ 3’s.” Ask Roig whom he likes in the World Series, because Paul George got hot from everywhere through three quarters, right until the moment when Kevin Durant swatted away a sure thing, accompanied to the sound of the third-quarter buzzer. The Thunder were up one at that point, having frittered away a ten-point halftime lead, but a couple minutes into the fourth they suddenly seemed to remember that they could still play defense. With a minute left, OKC was up by eight; George, not dead yet, hit a wicked trey and got fouled, erasing half that lead, and with 13 seconds left, the Pacers were within three. George got a clean look, but backrimmed a trey, and Durant’s retrieval, followed by two free throws on the inevitable foul, made it a four-point game; Myles Turner came up with a dunk, but KD ended up back on the line; he missed the second foul shot, but he gathered the rebound, and the Thunder won over the Pacers 115-111, tying the season series.

Statistic of note: The Thunder bench scored 45 points. Paul George scored 45 points. (He was 4-10 on treys, just missing Roig’s prediction.) The Indiana bench managed only 14 points, one fewer than Enes Kanter, though you have to wonder how much that matters when all the Pacer starters hit double figures and, as noted, Paul George had 45 freaking points. Then again, Kevin Durant was doing Kevin Durant things all night, finishing with a 33-point, 13-rebound double-double. And only Russell Westbrook could collect a triple-double while shooting 4-17: he finished 14-11-14. You have to wonder how this would have looked with Kyle Singler in the rotation. (Singler apparently was a late scratch, after lower-back pain during workouts.) Or maybe you don’t. Saving Serge Ibaka for tonight didn’t prove miraculous; Ibaka logged only 24 minutes, scored eight, rebounded four.

So three in a row against the East, which was not something I would have predicted: the Thunder have lost 22 games this season, 11 against Western teams, 11 against Eastern teams — but they’ve played the East only 28 times, the West 42. Only two games remain against the East, both on the road: at Toronto a week from Monday, at Detroit the next night. Between now and then, three Western foes will keep OKC busy at home.

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