(Photo by Torry Purvey)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY– Nate McMillan just wanted to see his team fight. Down two players from his team’s regular rotation, the Indiana coach wanted to see his squad go scrap and claw for a win in a hostile environment.
“That’s what it takes to win ball games,” McMillan said. “You win the hustle game. I put up on the board ‘scrap.’ You have to fight for everything. I thought the guys tonight, we did that. We were without a couple of players, but the guys in uniform came out and played the right way.”
Jeff Teague paved the way for the Pacers as he scored 30 points on 9 of 16 shooting and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line. Thaddeus Young added 20 points and 11 rebounds. Glenn Robinson III posted 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Pacers improved to 8-7 and earned their first road win of the season.
“We have guys that are capable of playing at a high level,” Teague said. “They stepped up tonight. We’ve got confidence in everybody on the roster. It showed tonight.”
Russell Westbrook earned his fifth triple-double of the season for Oklahoma City as they dropped to 8-6. He tallied 31 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds. Enes Kanter came off the bench to post 16 points while Victor Oladipo scored 14 points on 6 of 14 shooting.
Despite registering another triple-double, Westbrook was far from pleased with his performance.
“Just wasn’t ready tonight,” Westbrook said. “Starting with myself. I was (sh***y) tonight. I could have did a lot of things better. I have to come out and be ready to play every night. I feel like I let my guys down and we have to be better.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Young missed a pair of free throws and Westbrook made the Pacers pay with a game-tying layup.
But Young came right back to score in the paint to put the Pacers up by two. Westbrook missed a layup on the other end and it led to two free throws from Teague.
Oladipo responded with a 3-pointer from the corner and Oklahoma City trailed 99-98 with 1:25 left.
On the ensuing possession, with the shot clock down to 1, Steven Adams fouled Miles Turner. He hit both free throws and the Pacers were up 101-98 and 38 seconds left. Westbrook scored and the Pacers lead went down to one point with 28 seconds left.
The Thunder forced the Pacers into a missed shot, but Indy got the rebound and Teague was fouled. He put the Pacers back up by three with 4.6 seconds left on the clock.
That was more than enough time for Westbrook to take the inbounds pass out of the timeout and drill a game-tying 3 to send the contest into overtime.
In the OT, the Pacers were up 108-105 when guard Monta Ellis turned the ball over. Oklahoma City had a chance to get within one, but Westbrook tried to pass to Steven Adams and the ball was lost in traffic. The Pacers turned it into a fast-break layup and increased their advantage to five with 1:28 left.
Westbrook scored again, but Teague answered with a 3-point play.
Morrow came up with a jumper before the Pacers turned the ball over. Oladipo then cut the lead down to two with a jumper in the paint. Teague was fouled intentionally and hit both free throws with 19.1 left.
The Thunder had three attempts at a 3-pointer, but came up empty on all of them. That was enough to close out the game.
“We said go win the game,” Teague said. “We have nothing to lose. They’re at home. They were going to make some plays, but we just had to go out and win the game.”
With leading scorer Paul George not in the lineup, the Pacers needed someone to pick up the scoring load. In the first half, that player was Young. He had 11 points in the first nine minutes of action. He made all five shots he took as Indiana grabbed a 30-21 lead.
Led by Kanter and Alex Abrines, it was the Thunder reserves who kept Oklahoma City in the game. The Pacers still held a 58-46 advantage with three minutes left before the Thunder closed out the half strong and cut the deficit to 58-54 by halftime.
Indiana was able to lead for the entire first half due to his long-distance shooting. They made 7 of 11 from behind the arc in the first half. They came into the game ranked 22nd in the league in 3-point makes at eight a night.
The Thunder, on the other hand, couldn’t find the range from the 3-point line, but they kept hoisting them up. They made only 10 of 36 on the night.
“We played hard, we played together.,” Robinson said. “I am just proud of this whole team for sticking together and fighting even though we are a couple of men down.”