Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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April 15, 2014

One game, but Pacers look primed for playoffs

For the past six weeks, no one has known what to make of the Indiana Pacers, but Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, all was right with the world.

In front of a playoff-ready crowd, the Pacers notched at 102-97 win over Oklahoma City, a 58-win team with a two-headed attack of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that’s very similar to Miami’s LeBron/D-Wade version.

“It’s a team that’s an elite opponent that’s been in the top two spots in the West all year, and I just thought we did a good job of protecting home court,” said Pacer David West, who had 21 points on a sterling 9 of 11 from the field.

The Pacers had six players score in double figures, including 20 from backup C.J. Watson, who drained four 3-pointers while sparking more talk that he, not George Hill, should run the point full-time.

Watson missed 18 games during the Pacers’ slide, as the team went 7-11 in his absence due to elbow and hamstring injuries. He had both areas heavily iced as he sat in the locker room following his performance on Sunday, and while not ready for starters’ minutes, his postseason value can’t be denied.

“We don’t win this game without C.J. doing what he did,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “He was just spectacular, and you could see how much he means to our team.”

While multiple Pacers shined, Lance Stephenson played at the All-Star level that makes him a must-keep in the offseason. Stephenson recorded his new team-record fifth triple-double of the year, with 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Stephenson achieved the perfect balance of focus and fire that has made him the organization’s top emotional-catalyst/fan-favorite combo since Reggie Miller retired nine years ago.

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