In spite of it all, Indiana may have home court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Which is huge — at home in recent weeks they have beaten the Miami Heat and now Oklahoma City Thunder, but they are a 20-20 team on the road. If they still have dreams of the NBA Finals they needed a Game 7 vs. Miami at home. Now they get that with a win Wednesday vs. Orlando (or a Miami loss in its final two games).
Indiana has that chance because of a hard-fought 102-97 win over the Thunder Sunday.
Most important, they looked better on offense and more like their old selves. Like the version of themselves that was a title contender.
David West was overpowering inside and had 21 points on 11 shots. Paul George had 20 points and hit a key three over Kevin Durant late (plus he hit one when the game was tied). Lance Stephenson had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and was knocking down shots and mugging for the camera. C.J. Watson — who had missed considerable time during the Pacers’ slump due to hamstring and elbow issues — was back adding scoring punch off the bench and putting up 20 points. As a team the Pacers shot 52.8 percent.
That shooting let the Pacers get away with turning the ball over of 24.2 percent of their possessions. That kind of sloppy play will get them in trouble most days.
The Pacers defense also was in good form and held one of the best offenses in the NBA to 42.9 percent shooting and 4.2 points per 100 below their season average.
The first half of the game was at a tempo the Thunder should have liked, but they never really got it going.
One key reason they missed their threes — 7-of-28 as a team. Kevin Durant was 2-of-11 from deep, Russell Westbrook 3-of-10. Durant finished with 37 points, Westbrook had 21 points on 23 shots.
One win will not change the Pacers slump around, but it has to start somewhere. This win — and home court through the Eastern Conference — is a good start.