Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers Game Recap – Oct. 25, 2017

Russell Westbrook does things on the basketball floor that no other player can do. Most of them have to do with his speed, his strength and his uncanny clutch gene. Tonight, it was a flash of dexterity that was his magic moment, and it helped ignite a Thunder breakaway third quarter in a 114-96 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Westbrook pulled up for a short jump shot along the right wing, but it bounced off the front iron. Never one to give up on the play, Westbrook followed his shot and snagged it while he was hovering over the baseline. He had no angle with his right hand, so the ambidextrous Westbrook did what came natural, and as he came down he popped the ball back into the basket with his left hand, banking it in off the backboard.

When you’re Russell Westbrook, either will work. #RussellHustle

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“First, make the first one,” Westbrook said, somewhat scolding himself.

“Once I got it back, that was my only option at the time so I tried to finish it,” Westbrook followed with a chuckle.

Westbrook’s bucket helped fuel a 32 point third quarter, and was a momentum booster during the Thunder’s 18-9 slow-burn run to begin the second half. The Thunder and Pacers battled back and forth for the entire first half, but that decisive breakaway in the third ensured that it wouldn’t have to sweat out the fourth quarter. The lead swelled to as many as 20 and never dropped below nine the rest of the way.

“We did a good job of setting the tone defensively from the start of the game and obviously leading on to the second half as well,” Westbrook noted.

Westbrook was spot on with his analysis, because the Thunder won this game handily because of a masterful defensive performance. Besides allowing 35 free throw attempts on 27 personal fouls, the rest of the numbers tell the tale: 33.7 percent shooting, a plus-eight rebounding advantage, 19 turnovers forced and 14 fast break points.

“We played well. Our principles, we stuck to them,” said Paul George, who finished with 10 points after battling foul trouble all night against his former team. “Our defense got a whole lot better from the game before.”

“The main thing was our ‘no middle’,” center Steven Adams explained, highlighting the Thunder’s strategy to force drivers towards the wing instead of the paint. “We did a really good job, better than the other games, of not giving up middle, which allowed the rotations happen and keep them out of the paint. We script it all the time.”

With the Thunder stringing together stops, the ball was in Westbrook’s hands quite a bit as a playmaker. Even beyond his highlight-reel plays, the reigning NBA MVP was sensational because of all the little things he did. He knocked down a pair of three-pointers, attacked the rim relentlessly for driving layups and snagged rebounds and steals all over the floor. For the second time in four games, Westbrook racked up a triple double – with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists.

“Floor general,” George identified immediately when asked about his point guard’s performance. “He pushed the tempo, made the game easy for everybody, got himself going. He made the plays. He made us go and he was the engine tonight. That’s the Russ we need.”

“Russ has gotten great encouragement from his teammates and he’s at his best when he’s playing aggressively,” Donovan said. “Overall I felt like he surveyed and managed the game and the floor and moved guys around. He did an exceptional job.”

In the first half alone, Westbrook had 10 assists as he helped get his teammates involved. Carmelo Anthony was his main wingman as a scorer, chipping in a 28-point, 10-rebound double-double while anchoring the Thunder’s units that featured mostly reserves. Westbrook got Josh Huestis in on the action for a pick-and-pop three-pointer during the forward’s nearly 26 minutes of action.

But above all the most effective weapon for Westbrook was Adams, who rolled down the middle of the lane with force and power. Adams overpowered the bigs that Indiana threw at him, and thanks to some deft passes by Westbrook and some strong finishes around the bucket, Adams finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 31 minutes.

“Steven is a great roller,” Westbrook noted. “Throughout his years he’s done a good job of rolling and using his hands, using his size, using his body not only for himself but other people as well.”

Michael Cage calls it a “Hungry Jack move” by Steven Adams. No argument here.

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Thunder Highlights:

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By the Numbers

Plus-8 – Rebounding edge for the Thunder on the night, a major point of emaphasis heading into the game

28 – Points for Carmelo Anthony on 9-for-17 shooting, plus 10 rebounds and three blocks

54-28 – The Thunder’s edge in points in the paint tonight, where they held Indiana to 14-for-38 shooting

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The Last Word

“Our guys gave great effort defensively. We had some really good moments offensively as well. We shared the ball and had 26 assists… We really liked the way they were trying to move the ball to one another. It’s another step forward. We’ll try to look at this film and get ready to go on the road.” – Head Coach Billy Donovan

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