Of course they would do this. After the disaster in Indianapolis on Tuesday night, after their pride and toughness and intelligence was questioned and their reputation was maligned, the Pacers did what they always do when trouble comes calling. They rewrote their own history (for the twenty fifth time in the past two months). As Mark Twain once said, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” But this is true: the Pacers love adversity. In D.C. they showed their dominance against a lesser opponent and played with high energy on both ends of the floor. It is their basic conundrum. The Pacers, when they are engaged as one unit, are a more versatile team than almost any in the Eastern Conference. Effort just has to be pulled out of them.
The Pacers have post players, they have beat you off the dribble players, they have perimeter players. Early in the game they moved the ball from side to side, they helped each other on offense and defense and most importantly Roy Hibbert was not in a coma. The Pacers played their typical defensive shut down style and led by six after the first quarter, shooting 68%. The slower tempo continued in the second quarter which exposed the Wizards inability to hit mid range shots. At the rim Hibbert altered shots or just created bad misses. The Wizards, as in game 3, had difficulty scoring. Wall and Beal are perimeter shooters but the Wizards lack a dominant off the dribble scorer and the Pacers jammed up the paint and dared them to shoot. Which the Wizards did. And missed. All of the rebounds and 50-50 balls that were going the Wizards way on Tuesday were going the Pacers way on Thursday. The Wizards only had 40 points at halftime.
In the third quarter the Wizards pushed the tempo and went on a 11-2 run. But the Pacers fought back (yes, they actually can do that when inspired) and built a double digit lead again. Every up close camera shot of the Pacers showed their faces in desperation mode, as if this was their elimination game. But they couldn’t keep the Wizards from a run to end the quarter and it was an 8 point game going into the fourth. With eight minutes left the Wizards took their first lead. But like he did in Game 6 in Atlanta, David West would not let the Pacers lose. He had 18 points in the 2nd half, 29 points overall. He answered every run with a jumper in the lane. The Pacers beat the Wizards, 93-80. They beat a team without a complete scorer. Miami is next. We’ll see on Sunday which Pacers team shows up.
Thunder 104 Clippers 98: If nothing else the Thunder have patience. They took the Clippers manic offense in stride, trailing by as much as sixteen in the first quarter. The Thunder could not match the Clippers aggression and intensity and waited it out. Westbrook was in foul trouble early and Kevin Durant continued to miss shots he normally makes but he was their best rebounder (16). The Thunder were getting open looks at the rim, even as they missed. Complicating matters Kevin Durant picked up two fouls and a technical. But the Thunder managed to hang in the game and only trailed by eight at the half even as they were outplayed.
The Thunder cut into the lead in the third quarter despite Westbrook’s lack of offensive rhythm. When Serge Ibaka left the game with a calf injury and didn’t return it was a fortuitous turn. Nick Collison and and Steven Adams play well together and look to move the ball, not score. A Nick Collison three to end the third tied the game and that was all the momentum the Thunder needed. They dominated the 4th quarter. A Durant three pointer halfway through the period put the Thunder up by 7. It was followed by a Reggie Jackson 3. The only energy from the Clippers were back to back offensive fouls, one on Chris Paul and another on Blake Griffin that seemed to take their last bit of energy. It stalled a Clippers run. (Credit Durant for standing in there as Blake was coming full speed.) This was a lead the Thunder were not going to blow. As for the Clippers Blake Griffin was their best player but fouled out with two minutes left and the Clippers trailing by 9. The Thunder are onto San Antonio. And the Clippers are in Donald Sterling hell.