INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — David West scored 21 points and Lance Stephenson had his league-best fifth triple-double of the season, leading Indiana past Oklahoma City 102-97 Sunday — putting the Pacers one win away from clinching the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
The Pacers (55-26) lead two-time defending champion Miami by a half game with one to play and hold the tiebreaker based on conference record.
Kevin Durant finished with 38 points for Oklahoma City (58-22) on a day it could have locked up the second seed in the West.
Oklahoma City rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, tying the score at 89 with 2:46 to go. But Paul George hit a 3 and Stephenson made one with 34.2 seconds to go to make it 97-91.
It was the first time since Indiana’s win March 26 over Miami that the Pacers looked like their old selves.
They scored, defended well and played with energy — a combination that kept them atop the Eastern Conference standings from late October until the final week of March. And they answered every challenge, too, even though Roy Hibbert was kept scoreless and finished 0 of 9 from the field.
George had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Stephenson finished with 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to set a new franchise record with his fifth triple-double of the season. Detlef Schrempf set the previous mark with four in 1992-93.
What was different Sunday?
Indiana was back on its home court, where it finished with a league-best 35-6 mark. Plus, the Pacers didn’t allow this one to get away early.
But the biggest reason for the change may have been that the Pacers starters were well-rested after taking most of four days off last week and the backups were bursting with confidence after winning at Milwaukee.
It showed all day.
After C.J. Watson closed the first half with a layup to give the Pacers a 47-45 lead, Russell Westbrook’s quick scoring flurry in the second half gave the Thunder a 55-52 lead.
Indiana charged back with an 8-0 run to make it 60-55 and still led 74-66 after three. When George knocked down a 12-foot runner with 7:00 left in the game, the Pacers had their biggest lead of the day, 87-77.
Oklahoma City rallied with a 12-2 spurt, tying it on Westbrook’s 3 with 2:46 left. Westbrook had 21 points.
Indiana broke the tie with George’s 3-pointer, took control with Stephenson’s late 3 and closed it out by making six of eight free throws in the final 22.4 seconds.