Preview 27 of 82: Thunder @ Pacers
Time: 6:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN / Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
Paul George will make his much-anticipated return to Indianapolis tonight, as the Oklahoma City Thunder (12-14) visits Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a showdown with the Pacers (16-11). The game tips-off at 6:00 PM CT and will be televised Fox Sports Oklahoma and ESPN. Dave Pasch and Doris Burke will be on the call for the national broadcast.
George was selected 10th overall by the Pacers in the 2010 NBA Draft, making four All-Star appearances in seven seasons while establishing himself as one of the better two-way players in the league. After expressing a desire for a fresh start elsewhere, he was dealt to Oklahoma City in the offseason in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis — a move many saw as overwhelmingly lopsided in favor of the Thunder.
Now just 26 games into the 2017-18 season, the narrative surrounding the summer’s biggest trade has changed dramatically. George and the Thunder have stumbled to a disappointing start, while Oladipo and Sabonis have become integral parts of a surprising Pacers uprising. Oladipo has been particularly outstanding, averaging 24.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4 assists per game — shooting 44 percent from downtown in the process.
Regardless of how well the deal has worked out for the Pacers thus far, the Indiana crowd does not figure to be very kind to George and the Thunder. Making matters worse, Andre Roberson will miss his second consecutive game with an ankle sprain — opening the door wide for Oladipo to continue shining. Oklahoma City has its work cut out if PG13’s return is going to be a successful one.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Ankle
- Darren Collison: Questionable — Knee
- Corey Joseph: Questionable — Shoulder
- Glenn Robinson III: Out — Ankle
Indiana: Cory Joseph, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner
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October 25: OKC 114, IND 96 [BOX SCORE]
Pacers Coming in Hot. Indiana has won four straight ahead of tonight’s contest, with wins over New York, Chicago, Cleveland and Denver. The team is currently second in the Central Division and outperforming preseason expectations by a long shot. The Pacers have the NBA’s second-best overall three-point percentage at 39.5 percent and scores the sixth-most points at 109 per game. The Thunder defense surrendered 116 points to Charlotte on Monday night and will be eaten alive if improvements aren’t made.
Slowing Victor Oladipo. Victor Oladipo is averaging 31.8 points, 7 rebounds and 4.6 assists in the month of December — turning in 47 points, 7 boards and 6 helpers in the Pacers’ last game on Sunday night. He scored a game-high 35 points on 11/18 shooting against Oklahoma City on October 25 and tonight gets a look at a Thunder defense without Andre Roberson. He’ll begin carving OKC up if he finds rhythm.
More Alex Abrines. Another Andre Roberson absence likely means a third-consecutive start for Alex Abrines. He’s averaging 12.3 PPG while in the starting five and converting on 50 percent of his looks from deep. Those numbers are heavily buoyed by a good game on the road in Memphis and he will need to shoot better tonight than the 2/9 effort on Monday.
Domas. Domantas Sabonis is currently averaging 12.1 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Pacers — carrying a 54 percent shooting average and hitting 45 percent of his three-point attempts. He looked overwhelmed in his first match-up against the Thunder, scoring 4 points on 1/9 shooting. He should be a bit more effective tonight in the comforts of home.
Boo Birds. OKC enjoyed its best performance of the season in an emotionally-charged game against Kevin Durant and the Warriors on November 22. Though the shoe will be on the other foot tonight in Indianapolis, a hostile crowd ready to boo Paul George should provide plenty of motivation. George fouled out in 19 minutes and scored just 10 points when the Thunder beat the Pacers earlier in the season — he should come out aggressive and his teammates will presumably want to get this one for him.
Paul George wants to stop being compared to Victor Oladipo and says he has closure on his Indiana chapter. Via Royce Young.
Domantas Sabonis on facing the Thunder and the atmosphere inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Via Pacers.