Oklahoma City insisted there was no extra motivation playing against an Indiana team sporting the NBA’s best record.
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Kevin Durant certainly played like there was on Sunday night, scoring 36 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Thunder made quick work of the visiting Pacers with a 118-94 win.
What started as a matchup of NBA Finals’ hopefuls quickly turned into a rout, with Oklahoma City leading by as many as 29 points in the first half before finishing with stars Durant and Russell Westbrook — who added 26 points and 13 assists — resting comfortably on the bench.
It was also a largely one-sided affair — particularly early — in the matchup between Durant and Indiana All-Star Paul George.
George finished with 32 points, but he had only six at halftime as the Thunder surged ahead and never looked back.
"I take everything personal, no matter who I’m playing," Durant said. "I’m always grateful for the opportunity to play, so I never want to take it for granted.
"… Of course, playing one of the best teams in the league, you’ve always got to bring it a little bit more, I guess, and tonight I think we all did that."
While George was quiet offensively in the first half, Durant opened the game with a point to prove against last year’s Eastern Conference finalist.
The NBA’s leading scorer at 28.5 points per game hit 6 of 7 shots in the first quarter, scoring 14 of the Thunder’s first 18 points. It was just the start of the fun for Oklahoma City, which improved to 10-0 at home this season and is the only Western Conference team still undefeated at home.
"I think we know that we can play with the best of them," Westbrook said. "I think tonight we did a good job of just playing our game."
Durant was 14 of 23 from the field and Oklahoma City shot a season-best 61 percent (47 of 77). Reggie Jackson added 15 points off the bench, while Serge Ibaka finished with 13.
Indiana, which shot just 40 percent (34 of 85), was playing its second game in two nights — having won at San Antonio on Saturday.
Roy Hibbert backed up George’s strong second-half performance with 12 points, while David West also finished in double figures with 11.
It was all too-little, too-late for the Pacers, who suffered their worst loss of the season. Their only other losses were by 16 points at Chicago on Nov. 16 and by four points at Portland on Dec. 2.
"I wouldn’t say we had tired legs, but the Thunder definitely knew what we were up against," George said. "They knew this was a back-to-back night for us. They came out with that urgency to really run us, and see if we could compete and match their energy."
The Thunder swept the regular-season series with Indiana last season, and they nearly equaled their season-high of 119 points in the win — falling one point short of what they scored on Nov. 8 against Detroit.
Oklahoma City led by as many as 14 points in the first quarter, stretching that to 19 points in the second quarter after Jeremy Lamb’s 3-pointer put the Thunder up 43-24.
Lamb’s 3-pointer capped a 15-4 run for Oklahoma City, all coming from its reserves — led by Jackson’s seven point.
The Thunder shot 54.8 percent (23 of 42) in the first half, while Indiana shot just 32.6 percent (15 of 46).
"Tonight, obviously, for our guys, Oklahoma City was just a step quicker on both ends of the court," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said.
NOTES: Indiana finished a five-game trip against the Thunder, going 3-2 on the road with losses to Oklahoma City and Portland. … The Pacers, who played two of the top Western Conference teams in San Antonio and Oklahoma City in their last two games, return home to face two-time defending NBA champion Miami on Tuesday.