By Randy Renner
After it appeared the Thunder had solved some critical issues now that the regular starting five is back in place, old demons reared their ugly heads Sunday in Indianapolis.
Once again the Thunder struggled to defend the perimeter, another role player went off for a big game and the Thunder took and missed too many 3-pointers.
Sunday C.J. Miles, who came in averaging six points a game, scored a season-high 20 coming off the bench.
The Pacers shot 45 percent from deep (9-for-20) and 52.8 percent overall and the Thunder managed to hit just 25 percent of their threes (7-for-28) and 42.9 percent overall.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook took and missed most of those shots from beyond the arc. KD was 2-for-11 and Russ 3-for-10. Even so Durant finished with a game-high 38 points and Westbrook again came close to another triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Clearly the Pacers zeroed in on this game after losing to Miami on Friday. It also seemed like they wanted to prove to themselves they could at least beat the Thunder on their own floor. Lately they haven't done well against OKC anywhere losing five of the last six before Sunday.
The worst thing coming out of this game is the health of Reggie Jackson. He got popped pretty good trying to fight through a screen and did not return to the game. He ended up having a precautionary X-ray on his neck.
Everything looked good on the film but Jackson wasn't sure if he'd be able to play in Monday night's game at New Orleans. Westbrook definitely won't play so the Thunder may have an interesting mix at point guard.
The Thunder could have wrapped up the #2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a win, instead the Thunder's lead over the Los Angeles Clippers is down to two games with two to play. OKC has New Orleans and Detroit left, the Clips finish with Denver and Portland.
A Thunder win over what still should be a short-handed Pelicans squad Monday night will put the second seed on ice and allow the Thunder to pull back on the throttle if they want in Wednesday's finale with Detroit.
And on the bright side of this loss to Indy, it gives the Pacers the inside track at the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and perhaps a better chance of knocking off Miami in the East Finals if both those teams make it that far. Since the Thunder matchup better against Indiana than Miami this loss might prove to be good news by Finals time, provided the Thunder make it that far also.