The Indiana Pacers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-111 in an overtime thriller. Jeff Teague was phenomenal in the absence of Paul George and C.J. Miles, scoring 30 points, five rebounds, and nine assists. The former Atlanta Hawk matched his season scoring high.
For the third straight game, Oklahoma City came out completely flat at home. Although the Thunder were able to weather a 34 point first quarter by Houston and a 40 point outburst from Brooklyn on Friday night, their poor start against Indiana doomed them from the get-go. 30 points by the Pacers and seven first quarter turnovers by Oklahoma City meant that the writing was already on the wall.
“I don’t know if our defense was as bad in that first quarter (on Sunday) as much as the turnovers, the fast breaks, the easy points allowed them to get off to an easy start,” Billy Donovan said. “We’ve got to find a way to certainly start better, there’s no question about that, because we’re digging ourselves a hole.”
It was a tale of two halves, but they weren’t sequential. The Thunder played markedly better in the second and fourth quarters, but the game slipped away from them in the first and third.
The Thunder rallied back from a 15-point deficit in the second half to force overtime against the Pacers. The Pacers missed some crucial free throws down the stretch, which led to a final regulation possession for the Thunder. As is often the case, Russell Westbrook fired away from long-range, but this time, it went in:
Ultimately, though, it was for nought. The Thunder couldn’t pull it off in overtime. In fact, Jeff Teague scored as many points (8) as the Thunder did in the extra period.
Jeff Teague played fantastically on both ends, scoring and playmaking at will, and bullying Russell Westbrook on defense.
The Pacers packed the paint against the Thunder–a strategy that has been successful for teams thus far–forcing Westbrook to take the mid-range jumper that he so often hits. The Pacers bet on him missing it more often than not, and they bet correctly. Westbrook finished shooting just 13-34 and committed seven turnovers, but he did notch his fifth triple-double of the season, notching 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 15 assists.
Westbrook wasn’t happy with his own play nor the play of his teammates: “We just wasn’t ready tonight, starting with myself,” Westbrook said. “I was [awful] tonight, honestly. I could’ve did a lot of things better, man. Got to come out and be ready to play every night. Tonight, I felt like I let my guys down all-around and got to be better.”
If the first quarter was bad, then the third quarter was abysmal for Oklahoma City. They missed 12 of their first 13 shots, and shot just 23% in the period. That’s the way of this mercurial Thunder squad: there will be rock-bottom lows, and there will be silver-lining highs. Just don’t expect the kind of consistency Thunder fans are used to.
The Pacers improve to 7-7, while the Thunder fall to 8-6. Next up for the Thunder: they square up against the 7-7 Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday evening. Tipoff is at 9:30.