All the talk about how good the Indiana Pacers being the best in the NBA and Paul George being a better player than Kevin Durant went into hiatus after a 118-94 win for the Oklahoma City Thunder, keeping their undefeated status and proving some kind of a point in the meaningless power rankings at this stage of the season.
These big wins don’t mean much, not at this stage of the season. But it does go to show just how good the Thunder can be at home, when their big trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are all clicking. It proves just how important home court advantage in the playoffs will be, something the Pacers felt when they lost game 7 quite embarrassingly in Miami last year.
Kevin Durant scored 14 points in the first quarter, setting the tone for the rest of the game. Paul George tried matching him shot for shot, but was unable, on his own, to stop Durant, or get the Pacers back in the game. George Hill and Lance Stephenson, the two X-factors in this whole Pacers initiative, had an awful day, combining to score 12 points on 6-of-19 from the field. Paul George can have all the 30-point games he wants (finishing with 32 on 9-of-17 from the field), he’s not taking the Pacers very far on his own.
Durant scored 36 points and added 10 rebounds with 5 assists in a monster game for him, validating not just how good the Thunder are at home, but his MVP credentials for this season. Some players don’t care about such things, but Durant is showing more and more of his true colors about being a fierce competitor and someone who cares about stats and trophies. It’s easier to see these things when someone keeps ending the season with a loss, or finished second when it’s voting time.
Russell Westbrook finished with 26 points and 13 assists, and if he wouldn’t have been so insisting on shooting tough three pointers (1-of-6), it would have been an almost perfect day for him from the field. An even bigger plus was his defense, which isn’t the most consistent part of his game. When Westbrook feels like it, his athleticism does all the talking, and leaves some point guards, like Hill in this case, in a lot of trouble.
But the Thunder won’t get anywhere without a third and fourth player taking advantage of double teams and of defenses folding in order to stop Durant and Westbrook. Serge Ibaka scored 13 points, missing only two shots from the field. Reggie Jackson provided the same service with 15 points from the bench. Now the Thunder need to make this work when they’re playing on the road as well, going only 5-4 so far away from the Chesapeake Energy Arena.