After honing their comeback skills in wiping out double-digit fourth-quarter deficits to beat the Rockets and Knicks, the Pacers were faced with quite the opposite situation Friday -- trying to protect a double-digit lead against one of the most talented teams in the NBA.
Oklahoma City tried to rally behind the solo artistry of Kevin Durant but the Pacers got a symphony of strong performances to hold off the Thunder 103-98 before a sellout crowd of 18,165 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers led by 24 in the third quarter but Durant -- who scored 17 of his 44 points in the fourth quarter -- sparked a 17-3 run that cut it to 75-65 early in the fourth. The Pacers kept the Thunder at arm's length until the closing minutes, with Durant spurred one more Oklahoma City threat, scoring five in a 9-1 run that cut it to 97-93 with 37 seconds left but Darren Collison drained a jumper from the top of the key with 16.8 seconds left to ice it.
The Pacers won their fourth in a row to improve to 34-21, 18-7 at home. Oklahoma City has lost three straight for the first time this season and slipped to 40-15 overall, 17-10 on the road.
BY THE NUMBERS
Danny Granger scored 13 of his 26 in the fourth quarter to lead the Pacers. Roy Hibbert had 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots, and Collison scored 11. David West had 14 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes. Paul George had a rough shooting night (3-of-13) but pulled a career-high 16 rebounds. The Pacers shot 41 percent but just 32 percent in the second half.
Durant had a monster game, hitting 15 of 24 from the field, 3 of 8 from the arc and 11 of 13 from the line to carry the Thunder. Russell Westbrook scored 21 with 11 rebounds and nine assists but shot 7 of 23. James Harden scored 10 on 1-of-5 shooting. The Thunder shot 44 percent and committed 17 turnovers.
"For us to come out and outplay them the way we did the first three-and-a-half quarters when we knew they were going to come in here with great urgency -- when you have a great basketball team coming into a game with great urgency, there's always cause for concern -- but our guys rose to the challenge." - Pacers Coach Frank Vogel
"Obviously when they went small the made it a game but we were able to make enough plays down the stretch to pull out the win. P.G. and Roy were terrific on the glass all night, Danny continued his recent hot streak, giving us a lot of production offensively, and D.C. coming in hitting that big shot late in the game was huge for us." - Vogel
"I thought we did a real good job on Westbrook and Harden -- not so good on Durant." - Vogel
"We're clicking offensively, we're coming defensively, we're rebounding the ball well. We know we can win in a variety of different ways. And we're doing it all without practice. Who needs practice?" - Vogel
"It was a lot of fun, the atmosphere was great. The fans really filled us tonight and we came out aggressive." - George
"I couldn't do anything offensively. I struggled greatly, so I had to find another way to impact this game and the rebounds was the best way I could do it." - George
"With a team as high-powered as they are, we knew they were going to make a run. We just had to withstand it and we got away with the win." - Granger
"These games are more important now. Each win can put us closer to a top seed or each loss can push us farther down. I think with that importance, I'm just playing with more of a sense of urgency." - Granger
"Oklahoma's a great team, they're an offensive juggernaut, they've got guys one through five that can score. We came out hard, aggressive. We know teams are going to make comebacks in the NBA and the teams that withstand the comebacks are pretty good." - Hibbert
"I tried to make sure nothing came easy to the bucket. I got dunked on; it happens. But nine times out of 10 I'm going to protect the basket. I'm very pleased with our defensive effort." - Hibbert
STAT OF THE GAME
In the last three games in which he has played in the fourth quarter and overtime (he sat out the final period with the rest of the starters in Washington Wednesday), Granger has totaled 40 points -- 13 against the Thunder, 14 against the Knicks and 13 against the Rockets.
Producing a brilliant half at both ends of the floor, the Pacers shot 53 percent while holding the Thunder to 42 percent in taking a 56-41 lead at the break. The second unit got things started with a 12-0 run spanning the first and second periods, but Hibbert and the starters stepped forward in the second quarter.
After the Thunder scored six in a row -- including thunderous dunks by Durant and Serge Ibaka -- to cut the lead to 43-37, Granger drove for a three-point play and Paul George hit a 3-pointer to get the Pacers rolling on a 13-4 run to close the half. Hibbert finished things out in high style, reaching through traffic to tip in Barbosa's missed 3-pointer high off the glass, and then cutting off Westbrook's drive and blocking his shot as the half ended.
With the defense clamping down, the Pacers extended their run to 21-6 and their lead to 64-43 in the opening minutes of the third quarter and it grew to 72-48 after a Granger jumper. At that point, the Thunder had shot 1 of 7 and committed five turnovers in the quarter. The visitors finally put together a surge as Westbrook sparked a 13-3 run to close the period, leaving Indiana with a 75-61 advantage entering the fourth.
This was the Pacers' final game of the season against a Western Conference opponent, and they finished 12-5 against the West, 6-2 at home. … Indiana topped 100 points for the fifth consecutive game and ninth in 12 since the trade for Leandro Barbosa. … Oklahoma City was without Eric Maynor, out for the season with a knee injury.
Their second game in a row against a division leader comes Saturday as Boston visits Bankers Life Fieldhouse (7 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana, WIBC 93 FM). The Celtics have surged past Philadelphia into the Atlantic Division lead and with two losses in three games with the Pacers will be looking to even the series in this potential playoff preview.