By Michael Marot
The Associated Press
Kevin Durant overcame a bruised left calf to score 34 points and Russell Westbrook added 24 points, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 97-75 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday.
Oklahoma City (56-20) has won three straight to move into a tie with San Antonio for the top seed in the Western Conference.
The win capped an impressive back-to-back sweep for the Thunder, who beat the Spurs on Thursday night. They arrived at the team hotel in Indy on Friday at about 4 a.m., then went out and prevented the Pacers from clinching their first Central Division title in nine years.
But the Pacers (48-28) can clinch the title with a win Saturday at Washington.
Indiana, which had its five-game win streak ended, was led by Roy Hibbert with 22 points and David West with 17.
Durant scored the first six points in a 9-0 run, turning a 72-67 lead into an 81-67 cushion. And when it looked as if the Pacers might rally midway through the quarter, Durant closed off that charge, too, with back-to-back mid-range jumpers and a 3-pointer that made it 88-74.
That was all the separation the Thunder needed.
Neither team led by more than four points during a first half that ended with the Thunder clinging to a 44-43 lead and a scare when Durant limped to the locker room with some help.
But it didn’t bother him in the second half. The NBA’s leading scorer scored 22 points in the final 24 minutes, and he also spurred the 6-0 run early in the third quarter that gave Oklahoma City control with a 55-37 lead.
Indiana scored the next five points, but the Thunder answered with a 10-2 run that Durant capped with a pretty alley-oop dunk from Westbrook with 4:53 left in the third. That made it 65-54.
Indiana charged back again, scoring eight straight to cut the deficit to 65-62 but never retook the lead.
Oklahoma City jumped to an 8-0 lead when the Pacers opened the game by missing their first four shots.
After calling timeout, Indiana settled down. It scored the next six points and finally tied the score at 12 — the first time in a half that the teams traded leads 12 times and were tied 10.