Contrary to popular belief, Kevin Durant isn’t that clutch, and he actually can be blocked. The Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the desperate Indiana Pacers who played an improved blend of bad offense and excellent defense, as Russell Westbrook showed once again how unintelligent he can be with some macho moves that make no difference, and the 102-97 win brings the Pacers closer to clinching that crucial top spot in the Eastern conference.
Kevin Durant was hard to stop. He finished with 38 points while shooting 13-of-27 from the field and 10-of-10 from the line. However, Durant’s biggest weapon is hitting 3-pointers while pulling up as he moves forward. This little trick didn’t work too well this time, going only 2-for-11 from long range, including getting blocked by David West, leading to Lance Stephenson hitting one on the other end. Instead of a tied game, we got a six-point home team lead, and the game was over.
Russell Westbrook was out of control again, finishing with 7-for-23 from the field. He wasn’t too far from getting a triple double like Stephenson – 9 rebounds and 7 assists, 21 points as well. However, too many times he did more harm than good with his disregard to anything that even remotely seems like thinking while playing on offense, and his shenanigans of blocking shots while off the clock almost resulted in injuries, making a sad attempt of imitating Kevin Garnett.
The Pacers gave it what they had – energy, effort and excellent defense when Kevin Durant wasn’t’ going ballistic. The fans and head coach is entitled to expect more from George Hill and Roy Hibbert, both going through a serious identity crisis or simply lacking confidence that seemed to be oozing off of them earlier in the season. But Indiana got something special from their bench: 20 points from C.J. Watson, 11 from Ian Manhimi, 10 from Luis Scola and 0 from Evan Turner, but finally an understanding from him that he might be better off not shooting at all.
Turner isn’t a star like he was in Philadelphia. He’s a role player coming off the bench for 20 minutes. Sure, he has plenty of offense, but might be used in a more efficient way if he keeps looking for the pass first during his minutes with the second unit, finishing with 4 assists. It remains to be seen if this was just a fluke or finally that entering his mind. Roy Hibbert not scoring is a different story.
Unlike Kendrick Perkins, Hibbert needs to touch the ball for the Pacers to succeed. He was only 0-of-9 from the field and once again struggled to make an impact offensively or clog the lane and deter players from attacking the basket. But baby steps – he didn’t ruin it for his team, and did make it difficult for the Thunder driving to the basket at times. Perkins, on the other end, was a complete flop and the Thunder were much better when he didn’t play.
Paul George scored 20 points to go with 12 rebounds; David West had 21 points. Those are the guys who’ll show up with a varying degree of efficiency each and every night. There is no doubt that they’ll deliver, but the problem is the rest of the guys, needing to be more consistent. The Thunder shouldn’t be worried too much about this loss – the second spot in the West will be in their hands, probably. They just need to hope their primitive offensive style doens’t mess up all they achieved in the regular season.