It was quite the impressive performance from the Indiana Pacers. They fought from behind for the whole game and finished their comeback, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-98.
Stormy Seas in OKC
After what looked to be a crushing blow to the Indiana Pacers season in the final game before the All-Star break when they were embarassed at home by the Charlotte Hornets, the Pacers showed Friday night that they could play an equally season-defining game coming out of the break.
The Pacers visited the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday, and were able to come together late and close out what could end up being one of their biggest wins of the entire season, for sure a defining win for the stretch run they will now embark on.
Oklahoma City was 25-5 at home coming into Friday's game, and had won nine straight on their home floor.
The Pacers have had their struggles with the Thunder in the past, especially on the road. Indiana had lost five straight games at Oklahoma City before Friday.
Monta Shows and Tells
Before the break, just before the team dispersed, they were led in a players-only, closed-door meeting by their elder statesman, Monta Ellis. Ellis tried to inspire the young team with a talk then Friday in Oklamhoma City, it was his play Ellis was talking with.
Ellis hit a three-point shot with just 18.8 left to put Indiana up 98-95. This looked to be the same play that Myles Turner had forgot to set the screen on in a recent loss for Indiana, and the play fell apart. Friday, however, it was Ian Mahinmi who set the screen and Ellis who hit the big shot. Paul George then added three foul shots in the closing seconds to seal the win.
"He's an under two-minute player, simple as that, he's an under two-minute player. You need guys like that when you're trying to make a deep push," said Pacers forward George, speaking with Fox Sports Indiana's Jeremiah Johnson, of Ellis and his big shot late that lifted Indiana to the win.
Ellis led the Pacers in scoring with 27 points. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 31 points.
"He was great in particular during that stretch where we went to our bench...Paul was in foul trouble. We put the ball in Monta's hands and (he) really carried us through that stretch, that just gave us a chance down the stretch and then he hit that big three," said Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, speaking with the media, of Ellis' play which carried Indiana to a late win.
Defense Looms Large for Pacers
Another factor that helped propel the Pacers to this "springboard" win was their defense.
Indiana was able to hold the Thunder under 100 points for only the tenth time this season. The Pacers outscored the Thunder 34-22 in the fourth quarter, including 17-7 down the stretch in the final 3:56, as they were able to flip the script and close out a close game late.
"We're growing everyday....and it showed tonight, we came out and beat a great team on their home court," said Ellis speaking with ESPN after the win.
The final score stood Indiana 101 Oklahoma City 98.
Continuing The Roadtrip
"Hopefully this is a spring board victory...to have a momentum-building victory to start the final 29 games, the stretch run, we've got to carry it to the Orlando game (Sunday) now," said Frank Vogel to them media, of the importance of this win for his team.
The Pacers next game comes in Orlando against the Magic on Sunday afternoon, as the Pacers continue their three-game road trip. Tip time for Sunday's game in Orlando is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. EST.