Pacers Get Last Laugh Over Paul George and Thunder
Joe Robbins | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – The fans inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday deserved to go home with a win.
On a night when the home faithful was eager to erupt for the home team, the Pacers team delivered in the 4th quarter.
Wesley Matthews’ rebound putback with 1.7 seconds remaining was the game-winner in spoiling a 36-point night from former Pacer Paul George.
“That’s what Wesley does,” Darren Collison said after the improbable comeback victory over the Thunder (42-27). “He’s tough. He’s been doing it his whole career by making those plays, and it doesn’t matter how the game is going. He’s always in the game. It was a big play by him and we were able to get the win.”
Indiana’s 108-106 victory came with the Pacers erasing a 19-point deficit in Thursday’s second half and an 11-point margin with 6:25 to go.
Early on Thursday night, Indiana looked like a pressing team trying to match the playoff intensity from their home crowd.
Of course, part of that atmosphere came from some venom towards George, who was pretty darn good on Thursday.
George scored 20 points in the first half and 36 for the game with some heroic, and not so heroic, moments in the game’s final minutes.
Suffocating defense from Matthews forced a George turnover with 38.3 seconds left and the score tied at 106. A minute earlier George had scored 5 straight points to give OKC the lead back.
The ups and downs of the final two minutes for George carried into the next possession as his steal was given right back to the Pacers on an errant pass in trying to keep the ball in bounds.
Darren Collison’s interception of the George pass gave Indiana a chance at the win with 23.2 seconds to go. And that was where Matthews pounced on a weakside rebound to put back a Bojan Bogdanovic miss.
Russell Westbrook, who finished with a triple double of 19 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, missed a three pointer for the win at the buzzer.
Former Thunder draft pick Domantas Sabonis led Indiana with 26 points and 7 rebounds.
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
-Domantas Delivers: The Thunder had no answer on Thursday night for the guy they selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2016 Draft. Domantas Sabonis manhandled Nerlens Noel and just about anybody else the Thunder threw at the young big man. Sabonis finished with 26 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 0 turnovers on Thursday. It’s been a bit since Sabonis has been that dominating off the bench. It was vital on Thursday with the Pacers again finding it difficult in the half court offensively. Sabonis played the final 18 minutes of the game and was the go-to option for the Pacers during their comeback. And how about Domas going 12-of-13 from the foul? Some of that foul shooting came in stretches when Indiana was struggling mightily for a field goal.
-Pacers Get Over The Hump: It’s been a part of the post-injury Victor Oladipo-era that has many, including myself, skeptical of this team come playoff time. Can they beat the best teams in the league without their star? Outside of beating a trade-deadline depleted Clippers team last month, Thursday was Indiana’s first win over a playoff team since Oladipo suffered the season-ending knee injury. Clearing this hurdle had been daunting for Indiana as of late and it’s one they will see in each 11 of their next 12 games. Thursday’s win was big on so many levels, but especially when talking about the next week of games, with the Pacers heading now hitting the road to take on the No. 2 (Nuggets), No. 5 (Trailblazers), No. 8 (Clippers) and No. 1 (Warriors) seeds out west.
-Win/Win Trade?: The trade that significantly shaped the future of the Pacers also worked out pretty darn well for the Thunder, too. Back in the summer of 2017, Paul George left the Pacers no choice. They had to move him. And they pulled off a tremendous deal in projecting Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis into their system. In return for George, the Pacers got a new star (Oladipo) and a blossoming young big man (Sabonis). But the Thunder got exactly what they wanted. Acquiring George led to Russell Westbrook to sign a long-term deal---which was unquestionably the most important aspect of the trade for OKC---and then they were able to convince George to re-sign as well. George is playing at an All-NBA First-Team type level this season and the Thunder now have two of the NBA’s top 10-15 players. This is a win/win trade when looking at exactly what each franchise needed to accomplish.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-at Nuggets (Saturday, 3/16)
-at Trailblazers (Monday, 3/18)
-at Clippers (Tuesday, 3/19)
-at Warriors (Thursday, 3/21)
-Nuggets (Sunday, 3/24)
#LetsGoPacers!!!! Those are the wins I miss the most!
— Victor Oladipo (@VicOladipo) March 15, 2019