Pacers vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer
Pacers (6-7, 0-5 road) vs. Thunder (8-5, 6-3 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 6:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 100.8 (23rd), Pacers – 102.7 (18th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 100.4 (5th), Pacers – 105.0 (17th)
Over the past two games, the defense for the Oklahoma City Thunder has looked a lot more like the one that led the team to a 6-1 record to begin the season. They are limiting penetration and protecting the rim a lot better. But another thing that has greatly assisted the Thunder in winning these past two games has been the play of shooting guard Victor Oladipo.
The transition for Oladipo has not been a simple one. His former point guard, Elfrid Payton, was more of a pass-first, shoot-second type of point guard. Russell Westbrook is something all together different. It’s not that Westbrook is completely shoot first. It’s just that he’s always in attack-mode. And to a guard who is also an attacker, that can be a hindrance. For the first 11 games, Oladipo alternated between great and frustrating. He’d have games where his shot was falling and he looked like perfect compliment to Westbrook. And then he’d have games where he couldn’t buy a basket, and the fit looked questionable.
But in the past two games, Oladipo is averaging 27.5 points on 65.7% shooting from the field, to include 61.5% from deep. While that has been great, it’s the comfort with which Oladipo is playing within the offense that has been especially encouraging. He’s had season highs in assists in the past two games and had his first double-digit rebound game of the season against Houston. When he’s out there with the reserves, Oladipo is starting to be more aggressive and more assertive, which in turn, makes the bench players more efficient. It’s only a two-game sample, but this is exactly what the Thunder have needed (and likely expected) from Oladipo.
Season Series Preview
This is the first of two meetings this season between the Thunder and Pacers. The two teams split their season series last year with each team winning on the road in close games.
The Pacers come into this game at a disappointing 6-7. They had hopes of being one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, but have struggled with chemistry issues and defensive lapses. In addition, the Pacers are struggling to defend. Known as one of the best defensive teams up to a couple seasons ago, the rough, tough team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row is now a shell of its former self. In its stead, the team is now more of an offensive team, but has sacrificed defense in the process.
Player-wise, the biggest change for the team was at point guard, where the Pacers traded long-time starting point guard George Hill to Utah and got Jeff Teague from Atlanta in exchange. Teague has failed to live up to his All-Star status from his time with Atlanta, and the team has followed suit. Up front, Myles Turner has improved tremendously upon his rookie campaign and is now Indiana’s second best player. Paul George has been a little disappointing this season and is a no-go for this game with a sprained ankle. CJ Miles and Kevin Seraphin are also out because of injury.
- Cameron Payne (foot)
- Semaj Christon (concussion)
3 Big Things1. Trap Game
No Paul George. No CJ Miles. Feels like a game where the Thunder could easily coast to a victory. If the Thunder go into this game with that mentality, it could be a long night. This Thunder team is not good enough to coast in games. They have to compete each game the same. Hopefully they do.2. Back-up point guard
Victor Oladipo will likely take much of the back-up point guard duties with both Payne and Christon out with injury. Another candidate for back-up point guard: Alex Abrines. The rookie Spaniard is able to handle the ball and may be given the opportunity to run the second team.3. Post defense
Myles Turner and Al Jefferson will likely be the focal points of Indiana’s offense with both George and Miles being out. If Steven Adams and Domantas Sabonis both play their game, the Thunder should be solid on the interior.