OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder can generate a lot of excitement as the NBA’s highest-scoring team, but defense is still a matter of pride.
Durant scored 27 points, Kevin Martin added 24 and the Thunder clamped down in the second half to beat the Indiana Pacers 104-93 on Sunday night for their eighth straight win.
It was a matchup of the NBA’s most potent offense and the league’s stingiest defense — but Oklahoma City also happens to be the second-best at making opponents miss.
The Pacers shot 60 percent in the first half before Thunder coach Scott Brooks delivered a message at halftime. His players responded by limiting Indiana to 33 percent after that.
“Defense is going to win games. You can score back and forth if you want to, but defending is what we do," Russell Westbrook said.
Westbrook had 21 points but more importantly came up with a big block against 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert — 11 inches taller — during a late 8-0 burst by the Thunder that put it away after the Pacers had pulled within three.
“Plays like that can change the whole momentum of the game," Westbrook said. “That was one of those plays."
David West led the way with 21 points for Indiana, which had all five starters score in double figures but still couldn’t keep up.
The not-so-balanced Pacers came in allowing an NBA-best 91.2 points per game but scoring a league-low 90.7.
Also on Sunday:
NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony returned from a two-game absence with 34 points against his former team, and New York remained the NBA’s only team unbeaten at home.
LOS ANGELES — Paul Millsap scored 24 points, Mo Williams added 22 and Utah won its third straight. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 34 points, making 12 of 14 free throws, as they fell to 4-7 in their past 11 games.
PHOENIX — Rookie Andrew Nicholson scored nine of his career-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and Orlando handed Phoenix its seventh straight loss.
NEW YORK — Brandon Jennings scored 26 points, Monta Ellis had 24 points and Milwaukee withstood Brooklyn’s fourth-quarter rally.
LOS ANGELES — Jamal Crawford led a fourth-quarter rally by the reserves with 16 points and the Clippers won their sixth in a row and handed Toronto its 10th consecutive road loss.