Thunder 108, Pacers 102
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
After failing to touch the ball on a critical last-second possession in Oklahoma City's previous game, Kevin Durant arrived at the Ford Center on Saturday with one thought in mind - be more aggressive.
Durant matched his season high with 40 points, including 10 in the final 4:35, as Oklahoma City held off an Indiana rally and beat the Pacers 108-102.
``He's playing like an All-Star right now,'' said Durant's teammate, Thabo Sefolosha. ``He had 40 tonight and he made them when they counted.''
Oklahoma City (20-16) has won seven of its last nine games and is three wins shy of matching its total from last season.
Indiana (11-25) lost its ninth straight road game, but the Pacers almost ended that streak. Durant sat on the bench for more than three minutes early in the fourth quarter, watching as Indiana rallied from an 18-point deficit. The Pacers pulled to 93-92 on A.J. Price's 3-pointer with 5:16 left.
Mike Dunleavy missed a 3-point attempt that would've given the Pacers the lead before Durant's 18-foot jumper ended a 3 1/2-minute scoreless drought for the Thunder. Price's two free throws pulled Indiana within two with 3:11 left, but Durant scored the next six points as the Thunder pulled away.
His offensive aggressiveness was in stark contrast to the end of the Thunder's previous game, a 97-92 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. The Thunder, trailing by three in the final moments, didn't manage to get the ball to their star for a potential tying shot. Durant had only two points in the fourth quarter against the Hornets.
``I told myself after the New Orleans game not to ever do that again, to be one of the main guys on the floor and not be aggressive like that,'' he said. ``That hurts my team. I told myself ... to be aggressive and whatever happens happens. I know our team has to live with that and I will, too. That's another step in me becoming a better player.
``In the fourth quarter, we were tested, but we came through and got some stops and got some scores at the other end. The guys just really locked down and helped each other out.''
Danny Granger, in his second game after returning from a heel injury, scored 25 points to lead Indiana. Price scored 23 for the Pacers, including 19 in the fourth quarter.
``I just tried to get us back into the game,'' Price said.
Durant, who entered with a 31-point career average against Indiana, also had 12 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season despite missing the final 6:55 of the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls. Durant has scored 30 or more points 18 times this season - the Thunder are 12-6 in those games.
``I think he's as good an offensive player as there is in the league,'' Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. ``It doesn't matter, Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James), he's just a great offensive player. He does it with seemingly little effort. It's a pleasure to watch him.''
The Pacers led only twice, at 2-0 and at 37-36 for 16 seconds midway through the second quarter. Russell Westbrook's put-back put Oklahoma City back ahead and the Thunder never trailed again. Westbrook had 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Jeff Green's 3-pointer in the final seconds of the half gave the Thunder a 53-47 lead at the break, their biggest since the game's early minutes.
Oklahoma City opened the second half with an 11-3 run to go ahead 64-50. Westbrook, Green and Sefolosha each had a three-point play during the spurt, as Indiana's Roy Hibbert picked up his third and fourth fouls 21 seconds apart and went to the bench less than two minutes into the half.
The Thunder committed one turnover in the third and stretched their lead to 18 points late in the quarter.
``We kind of made some mistakes in the middle of the fourth where we turned it over a few times, missed some free throws, we got an offensive foul,'' Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. ``Other than that I thought we played pretty hard.''
James Harden scored 13 points for the Thunder and Green added 12.
Troy Murphy had 15 points and 15 rebounds for Indiana.
NOTES: Thunder backup C Byron Mullens made his second appearance of the season - his first came in the final seconds of a Dec. 28 win at New Jersey - and the rookie scored his first NBA points on a 16-foot jumper with 1:56 left in the first half. ... Indiana reserve F Solomon Jones fouled out with 10:38 left. ... With the Pacers' loss, the Suns are now the only NBA team yet to lose in the Ford Center, which was Home to the New Orleans Hornets for two seasons before becoming the Thunder's home last season. ... Oklahoma City F D.J. White, called up from the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League on Friday, didn't play.