OKC Back To Basics; Now West’s Best

VIDEO: The Thunder’s Sunday rout of the Pacers was a West over East statement game

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As expected, it was all eyes on Kobe Bryant and his debut Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Toronto Raptors. When one of the game’s living legends makes his triumphant return from a devastating injury, no one can argue that it requires our undivided attention.

But the Lakers are not going to win a title this year. Two teams much more likely to be in that championship mix were busy trading blows Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City; the Thunder and visiting Indiana Pacers, who were fresh off an impressive handling of the Spurs in San Antonio.

So perhaps it was more appropriate for us to focus our attention on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Paul George and David West and a couple of teams that will be playing in the postseason …

It’s become clear, as we near the quarter mark of the regular season, that the Thunder are no longer dragging around the memory of last season’s abrupt playoff exit (when Westbrook went down with a knee injury). In fact, they look like the best that the mighty Western Conference has to offer after their dismantling of a Pacers team that has been the East’s most consistent so far this season.

The Pacers’ vaunted defense was no match for a Thunder attack that comes in waves now, thanks to improved bench play from the likes of Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and the venerable Derek Fisher.

The superstar matchup between Durant and George was a one-sided affair for much of the night, with Durant providing a steady force to George’s at-times spectacular, though sometimes spotty, performance.

“Anybody who’s guarding me,” Durant told reporters afterwards, “I take it personal.”

And the Pacers, as deep and balanced as they are, had absolutely no one in their traveling party capable of matching what Westbrook brought to the party.

“As good as I’ve ever seen him,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after Westbrook turned in a vintage Westbrook performance against his team.

“Best game of the season,” Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins said of Westbrook. “I ain’t just talking about his scoring or what he did close to a triple-double. I’m talking about he was all over the place, digging, getting back to his man, running people off the three, jumping in the passing lanes.”

Credit Thunder coach Scott Brooks and general manager Sam Presti for resisting the urge to make changes and trusting in their own system. They believed in their youngsters and that they’d improve dramatically if they worked the way the organization demands. They went back to the basics that fueled their rise from a lottery outfit to a legitimate championship challenger.

Westbrook’s injury showed the Thunder just how delicate the balance is between a true contender and an aspiring one. Oklahoma City has lived on both sides of that line the past four years, finding out last season that without one of the franchise’s pillars, the Thunder were just as vulnerable as anyone else.

The Pacers would be wise to take note of that lesson. They are learning the ropes of life as a contender. For every stirring performance like the one they had in San Antonio, they’ll have to find the energy and effort needed to bounce back quickly for the next challenge.

The Thunder, as we saw Sunday, have done that and, in the process, have shown that being the best in the West is more than just a notion. It’s reality.


  1. jake s. says:

    OKC is the only team that can beat Miami. Spurs can too if they are on a high like last year.

  2. Zaito says:

    Miami Still unbeatable!!!

  3. Ken says:

    I think the result of this game has much more to do with Westbrook than it does KD versus PG.

    KD will always get his. But when Westbrook is playing well, the Thunder are very unlikely to lose. If they happen to go against the Heat this year for the title, it might not end the way it did a couple of years ago. And like Sekou said, OKC as a non-factor in last year’s playoffs was obviously directly related to Westbrook’s injury.

  4. isaac says:

    i can’t wait until the return game, should be a beauty!

  5. silencio says:

    sekou smith predicted that the warriors would win the championship this year… hahahahahahaha!!

  6. neither Pacers nor OKC have come up against the Heat yet….we will get a true measure of where they are at once they have beaten the Heat with a fair FT count….Pacers always get a FT advantage of 40-20 v Miami….its so unfair

  7. kobeballhog says:

    thats what happens when a wannabe team wannabe mvp face a real contender. come back to earth blue collar f@ke gold swagger pacers. you just got smacked into outer space by okc. paul george what? durant ate him alive.

  8. okc2014 says:

    That’s right! We beat the Pacers, fair and square. And guess what, we are also winning the title. OKC has the most improved bench, correct, they could have made major changes (I thought they should) but built up w/ what they had because management believed in them. Whoever said this is so correct: “when the OKC come out with all of their guns, their is no stopping them”. I like when Westbrook shoots imaginary guns when he makes a great shot. POW! POW! Go Thunder!

  9. ktz says:

    After watching last night OKC need to hang onto Perkins until the off season – He was fantastic on D last night and after the Pacers beat Miami in the ECF, the Thunder will need him to deal with Hibbert and Co

  10. Seban says:

    We should remember that Indiana is on road, and one day before they beat Spurs so they have to be tired

  11. Lebronman says:

    Wow really!? George ultimately didnt help his team? Pacers got 5 roadtrips before hitting okc. Without PG pacers cant achieve the best record of the nba as of now. Even in blazers match PG almost tie the game like miller. Im a heat fan and i only see the pacers are going to ECF with the heat. And pacers are the only team in the east that can beat my heat in 5 or 6 games. Also KD just lead 4 points over PG

  12. Kesehatan says:

    As long as the team have KD, RW and a great backcourt defense, they are a very tough team to beat.

  13. Chuck says:

    The second back-to-back against elite teams is definitely a good excuse, but this was a spanking from beginning to end. Remember that the two recent Thunder losses came on back-to-backs but were very close. The keys to the Thunder by playoff time will be a consistent Lamb shooting and more importantly, the development of Adams who is anticipating and moving game by game. Most people don’t realize he has played little against top competition and is just 20.

  14. I can’t believe that the Pacers lost to the Thunder

  15. dustydreamnz says:

    Give OKC credit where credit is due. Indiana however were too bad to be true, they looked tired. Were they trying, did they throw it? I expected a close game. It’s too early to write teams that are 16 and 3 like off.

  16. josue123 says:

    okc comes two weeks against the best teams in the NBA such as clippers, spurs, warriors, wolves, portland, so I think the Pacers are playing against Spurs is no excuse for as clear as yesterday’s defeat, george paul a pike that well …. okc the best team in the West

  17. jake s. says:

    The Pacers will almost always beat a team below .600… having said that, they struggle both offensively and defensively against the leagues juggernauts. They match up well against the Heat and that will be their only chance to win a ring. If im a Pacers fan, im really frustrated at the fact that in order to get to the finals… we HAVE to go against, and beat Lebron James four times.

    OKC is looking magnificent. I Think Reggie Jackson should be in consideration for Most improved player. If he isn’t traded, next season he will earn 6 man of the year. When they are firing on all cylinders, they are the best team in the league.

  18. fourputter says:

    ouch…I wouldn’t read too much into the game (as the author did) since the Pacers had a game against the Spurs the prior night. Often teams lack energy on back to backs, particularly at the end of road trips. While I like watching OKC play, I do expect them to have injuries throughout the season given their style of play. Whether that stops them like last year, time will tell. Has Durant ever had an injury of note? I don’t recall any. But it sure seems that with his style of play sooner or later he’ll suffer one.

  19. Oscar § says:

    KD showed he is the obvious MVP. Russ is getting back to his old self and Ibaka is magnificent on defense and a solid third scorer. Thunder is coming at you this year, watch out!!

  20. Boston Fan says:

    i don’t think the pacers played at their full potential vs okc i think their saving their energy for miami

    • dont worry about it says:

      the pacers would never do that
      theyre too smart they take every game like its personal

    • Sameh#ThunderUp says:

      oh that’s a very weak excuse, the Pacers lost 10 of their last 11 meeting against Oklahoma City Thunder so yea we all know Durant goes off just when he faces the Pacers proving that their defense is nothing against him and his team mates..

  21. Brandon A says:

    I watched the entire game (in between building towers with and changing diapers of my daughter)… The Thunder just smacked them in the face in the 1st quarter with Durant going off and Russ throwing laser like dimes. Nothing was going right for the Pacers. I think that Perkins was up for the challenge of Roy. PG came to life in the 3rd as Durant was sitting, and got them closer, but then Durant came back and it was over. If Ibaka can hit like he did last night, the Thunder will be tough for anyone. BTW, either the Pacer defense was very uncharacteristic or the Thunder were just that good on cuts!

  22. mee(a)t says:

    I didn’t see the game, only highlights, but it seemed like fast paced offense killed the pacers. Also PG had no answer for KD

    • Game Time says:

      Paul George is growing up to be exactly what he wanted and that’s a Kobe clone. He can score and get his numbers, but it ultimately doesn’t help his team, just like Kobe. Indy is not even a threat this year for Miami like people think.

      • ROCKETS says:


      • Kent Hiquet says:

        You could not be any farther off of what Paul George is. You have probably never seen him play more than 5 games. He barley even scores in the first half of games because he is distributing and getting other players opportunities. He comes up big in the second half if he is needed. Please refrain from making such ridiculous and uniformed comments in the future.

    • lol says:

      The Pacers flew from San Antonio to Oklahoma City right after their game with the Spurs which, by no doubt, had them exhausted. It’s hard to play at a high level when you’re physically drained from travel and have to play two top tier teams back to back on the road. Give the pacers a chance and they’ll indefinitely bounce back and give the Thunder a better outing.

  23. naahh…the best in the west is still the blazers

  24. For me OKC is the best in the West!!

    But I’m still not sure if they are going to win the CF in the West this year. With the center position as their weak spot I think Houston or Spurs might beat them in a best of 7. And im not very impressed by the bench of OKC.

    It’s a lot about the chemistry of Durant, Westbrook & Ibaka on this team.

    • Game Time says:

      OKC is offensively weak at the center position, but defensively they are solid and have depth. Hibbert and West were both held below 15pts and you’d expect at least one to get in the 20s. The only reason OKC got knocked out by the Grizz was because of Westbrook’s injury, but just like any team if you lose the star (or one of) then you’ll lose in the playoffs.

      If anything I’m not impressed with Indiana. The game where they could have showed us what they are really about turned into a beating and reality check.

    • Ron says:

      Common !!! You think Houston will beat the thunder !! No way !!! That’s not possible !! Have you seen the stats lately thunder bench averages 32.5 ppg a game lot better than Houston bench !

    • jake s. says:

      I have to disagree with you bstarr. OKC’s bench is one of the best in the NBA right now. OKC doesn’t need somebody to score at the center… and if they do, they put Durant at the 4 and Ibaka at the 5.