Page last updated on Wed Apr 01 23:13:33 EDT 2015
04/13/2014 5:34 PM EDT
Pacers hold on to top spot in East by beating OKC

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Pacers were back to being themselves

They made shots. They defended hard for 48 minutes. Lance
Stephenson regained his swagger and, yes, the reeling Pacers
even looked like a playoff-ready team.

David West made three free throws in the final 15 seconds and
Stephenson produced his league-leading fifth triple-double to
give Indiana a 102-97 win over Oklahoma City 102-97, putting the
Pacers on the cusp of clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern

"We're going to treat it (the season finale) like a playoff
game. We have to get that No. 1 spot," Stephenson said. "That's
what we wanted from the beginning of the season so we have to
take it, not get it, we have to take it."

All they need is a win Wednesday night at Orlando or one more
Miami loss. The Heat visit Washington on Monday and host
Philadelphia on Wednesday.

It's been a wild second-half ride for Indiana (55-26), which
held the top spot in the East from opening night in October
until the last week of March. When the Pacers beat the Heat on
March 26, they had a three-game lead and a seemingly firm grasp
on home-court advantage.

As the losses mounted, though, Miami charged back and finally
took the top spot on March 31. But rather than pulling away, the
two-time defending champs gave the lead right back.

Miami retook a one-half game by beating the Pacers at home
Friday, then fell into a tie with Indiana after losing Saturday
night in Atlanta.

The Pacers went into Sunday's game with six losses in eight
games and the knowledge that all they had to do was win their
last two - because they have a better conference record than the

So just like that, Indiana flipped the switch and got back to
looking the a championship contender.

Six players reached double figures including West, who had 21,
and Stephenson, who had 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
He broke Detlef Schrempf's franchise record for most triple
doubles in a season (four in 1992-93).

"He's a big part of our personality, a big part of our edge, a
fan favorite with good reason and he's one of the head coach's
favorites," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after getting a
low-five from Stephenson after a late 3-pointer.

Paul George finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds and C.J.
Watson scored a season high 20 points. The Pacers didn't even
need much from Roy Hibbert, who had six rebounds, no points and
was 0 for 9 from the field.

The Thunder (58-22) shot 42.9 percent from the field, were 7 of
28 on 3-pointers and were outrebounded 46-32.

NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant had 38 points and Russell
Westbrook had 21 as they rallied Oklahoma City from a 10-point
deficit over the final seven minutes.

The Thunder, who were trying to lock up the No. 2 seed in the
West, have no doubt Indiana can play with the best in the NBA.

"What's surprising to me is the people who are down on them,"
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "In an 82-game season,
you're going to have some tough times. Unfortunately for them,
they're having it late in the season. But all it takes is a game
or two to get back on."

What changed for the Pacers, aside from returning to their home

They were gritty and selfless, the starters who sat out
Wednesday at Milwaukee looked well-rested and the bench that
produced a big win over the Bucks looked more confident. While
there were still signs of lingering problems, such as 21

Indiana stayed in control and closed it out late.

After George's 12-foot runner gave the Pacers an 87-77 lead with
6:59 to go, the Thunder charged back, tying the score at 89 when
Westbrook hit a 3 with 2:46 to go.

"We put ourselves in good position, we just couldn't finish,"
Durant said.

The Pacers wouldn't allow it.

George broke the tie with a 3 and 2:09 to play, West followed
that with two straight mid-range jumpers and Stephenson knocked
down a 3 with 34.2 seconds left to give make it 97-91.

"We're just trying to put together good basketball at this point
and hopefully carry it into the playoffs," West said.

Notes: George welcomed a 15-year-old Cincinnati boy as part of
the Make-A-Wish foundation. Roei, a Pacers fans, has been
waiting 10 months for a liver/small bowel transplant. ...
Indiana finished 35-6 at home and is assured of having the
league's best home record. ... Nick Collison received eight
stitches to close a cut above his nose and backup guard Reggie
Jackson injured his neck after running into Ian Mahinmi's pick
in the fourth quarter.

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