Posted on March 15, 2019, by Travis Pulver
Entering Thursday night’s game, the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder both needed a win to keep pace with the other top teams in their respective conferences. A win would mean staying ahead of the pack for a higher seed. A loss would mean getting knocked out of the driver’s seat.
Paul George returning to Indiana upped the drama just a little bit, too.
While George had a great night with 36 points and Russell Westbrook recorded another triple-double, in the end, Pacers fans went home happy because their team came away with a win, 108-106.
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The game started off fairly competitive, but halfway through the first, the Thunder started to pull away. Heading into the second quarter, the Thunder had seven-point lead, 29-22. Oklahoma City led by double-digits for most of the second and took a 13-point lead into halftime.
It was more of the same in the third as the Thunder managed to hold onto their double-digit lead that got as high as 19-points until the final minute of the quarter. But a late run powered by Domantas Sabonis and Cory Joseph closed the gap to seven, 88-81, going into the final quarter.
Oklahoma City held onto their lead for the first half of the quarter, but the Pacers slowly began to narrow the gap about midway through. Myles Turner put Indiana ahead, 102-101 with a dunk at the 2:50 mark. But then Paul George made a three-pointer followed by a pair of free throws to give the Thunder the lead, 106-104, with 1:13 to play.
Sabonis tied the game back up on the next possession but the winning shot didn’t come until literally the final seconds of the game. Bojan Bogdanovic missed a 16-footer– but Wesley Matthews was there to tip it in and secure the win for Indiana.
“Man, this team fights. That’s one of the big reasons why I chose to come here,” Matthews said after the game (ESPN). “We fight, we compete. No lead is too much. We needed a win against a playoff team, and that’s what we’ve got to do going forward.”
Sabonis led the way off the bench with 26 points followed by Bogdanovic with 23 points. All five starters scored in double figures for the Pacers.
With the win, the Pacers move a half-game ahead of the 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings into the No. 3 seed. However, the loss knocks the Thunder down to the No. 5 seed (tied with Portland and a half game behind Houston).
Indiana has now won two in a row and three of their last five. They will face another challenging opponent from the West their next time out, the Denver Nuggets (Saturday night in Denver). It is the first game of a four-game road trip against playoff bound teams (Trail Blazers, Clippers, and Warriors).
Oklahoma City is going to have a tough time making up the ground they lost. They host the Golden State Warriors Saturday night.