INDIANAPOLIS – The return of Paul George brought a playoff-like atmosphere to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday night. Unfortunately for Indiana Pacers (16-12) fans, they were not able to see their team get some revenge on their former star player.
George’s Oklahoma City Thunder (13-14) topped the Blue and Gold, 100-95, but George only scored 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting. One of the men traded for George, Victor Oladipo, struggled on Wednesday. The former IU star scored 19 points on just 9-for-26 shooting (1-for-9 from three).
It was an especially tough loss for the Pacers because OKC’s ‘big three’ of George, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook really struggled to shoot. As a whole, the trio shot just 29% from the field (10-for-45).
From pregame warmups to every time he touched the basketball, George received constant boos from the fans at the Fieldhouse.
Oklahoma City had the edge early on in Wednesday’s game, but the Pacers responded to control much of the first quarter. Lance Stephenson drilled a buzzer-beater to give Indy a 27-22 lead at the end of one, racing down to the other end of the floor in celebration.
In the second quarter, the Thunder and Pacers traded runs. OKC put together the final run of the half, using a pair of late three-pointers to go into the locker room with a 51-46 advantage.
The back-and-forth battle continued into the second half, as Indiana and Oklahoma City played a relatively even third quarter. The Pacers came out on top, though, earning a 23-22 edge that made it a four-point game going into the fourth.
For most of the second half, it felt that every time Indy got a bucket to pull closer to the Thunder that OKC would answer on the other end. That rang true for most of the final period, but the Pacers came through with one last push in the final three minutes to make it interesting.
A 9-3 run fueled by Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic cut into Oklahoma City’s lead, making it 95-90 with 2:13 to play. After Westbrook sank one of two free throws, Oladipo knocked down consecutive shots to make it a two-point ballgame with 1:07 left on the clock. Anthony misfired on the other end for OKC, leaving the Pacers a chance to tie or take the lead. What happened next was truly wild.
On the run, Thaddeus Young bowled over Josh Huestis and was called for an offensive foul with 40.8 seconds remaining. Upon review, however, the call was overturned and Young went to the line for a chance to tie the game with a pair of free throws. Young knocked down the first, but was unable to hit the second.
In need of a huge stop, the Pacers did force a pair of misses at the rim, but Alex Abrines was able to clean up the mess for Oklahoma City and lay in a critical two points.
Down three with 15.2 seconds to go, the Pacers did not even get a tying shot off. Young turned the ball over, to George no less, sending the former Pacer to the line. George hit both free throws, effectively ending the game.
Rebounding and free throw shooting were problems for Indy on this night.
OKC outrebounded Indiana 52-42, with Westbrook (17) and Steven Adams (13) tearing the home team apart. At the stripe, the Thunder held the edge simply because they were there much more. Oklahoma City went 15-for-24 on free throws, while the Pacers took just six and made four.
With their four-game winning streak no more, the Blue and Gold will look to end their six-game homestand on a high note on Friday. The Detroit Pistons will be in town, with tip from downtown Indy slated for 7:00 p.m.