George scores 31 vs. former team, helps Thunder top Pacers
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George wasn’t interested in losing to his former team again.
The Thunder slogged through the first half and trailed by nine at the break. By the end of the third quarter, they led 76-69.
“We knew it wasn’t enough coming into the half,” George said. “We needed to change things and we came out and executed.”
It was a reversal of the previous matchup, when Indiana rallied to stun Oklahoma City 108-106 on March 14. This time, the Pacers scored at 10:48 of the third quarter and didn’t score again until the 3:57 mark. They missed 14 consecutive shots during that stretch.
“That was the game,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “We knew they were going to come out aggressive. Paul and Westbrook came out aggressive, attacking the basket, scoring. They made their run and were able to get the momentum and just really take control of the game.”
It was a critical win for the Thunder, who had lost five of six.
Indiana led 54-45 at the break behind 14 points from Bogdanovic. Adams scored 14 points in the first half for the Thunder.
The Thunder closed the gap early in the third quarter. A floater by Adams cut Indiana’s lead to one, then a 3-pointer by Jerami Grant finally put the Thunder ahead midway through the period. George and Westbrook followed with 3s to put Oklahoma City up 66-58. By the end of the run, the Thunder led 72-58.
Westbrook clinched his triple-double on a lob to Terrance Ferguson for a dunk that put the Thunder up 88-79.
George made a high floater and was fouled. He made the free throw with just under four minutes remaining to put the Thunder up 10.
The Pacers made one last surge, but a layup and a 3-pointer by Grant kept the Pacers at a safe distance heading into the final minute.
The Thunder felt they got good shots in the first half but were not converting. That changed in the third quarter.
“Keep shooting,” Ferguson said. “It’s as simple as that. First half got to us. We have a 48-minute game. We stuck together and stayed confident in each other and we came out with the win and had fun with it.”
Pacers: G Darren Collison returned to the starting lineup after missing three games with a right quad contusion. … G Wesley Matthews was called for a technical in the third quarter. … Bogdanovic scored 35 points in his previous game, a win over Denver on Sunday.
Thunder: Shot just 39 percent in the first half. … Held the Pacers to 8-for-25 shooting in the third quarter. … Westbrook has 133 triple-doubles in his career. … Grant scored 19 points.
HE SAID IT
George on the defense during the 24-0 run: “Honestly, I notice the stops more than us scoring. I noticed we were getting stops and we were getting out. I felt the pace was on our side and I felt the momentum was on our side.”
Adams made 11 of 14 shots and fell two points short of his career high.
“I just think they were taking what the defense gave them,” McMillan said. “When you have a lot of attention on Westbrook and Paul, sometimes, you’re leaving that big open. They do a good job of playing the two-man game, hitting him in the paint. Weak side wasn’t connected tonight, and they did a good job of executing.”
Pacers: At the Boston Celtics on Friday.
Thunder: Host the Denver Nuggets on Friday.