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Thunder vs. Pacers: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Pacers: Pregame Primer



Thunder (47-22, 20-13 road) vs. Pacers (36-32, 20-12 home)

TV: FSOklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 6:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.8 (2nd), Pacers – 101.7 (24th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.8 (12th), Pacers – 100.0 (3rd)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a nice little rhythm going about them at the moment. In their weaker moments, they would’ve either lost the Sixers’ game or had a much harder struggle. But even with Serge Ibaka resting, the Thunder took care of business in almost methodical fashion for an easy double digit victory.

It’s getting back to the point where if the Thunder go down by a couple points to a mediocre team, you never feel like the game is ever in jeopardy. In the 2nd quarter, the Sixers scored the first 10 points of the quarter to take a 6-point lead. But the Thunder took a timeout , never panicked, and chipped away to take a 6-point lead into halftime. From there it was smooth sailing. And that’s what good teams do.

Series History

This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Pacers. The beginning of the Thunder’s recent struggles can be traced back to the Pacers’ game right after the All-Star break. The Thunder held a 7-point lead with 2:47 left in the game. From that point, the Thunder were out scored 15-5 and went on to lose the game 101-98. For the next 3 weeks, that cycle of losing games in the closing minutes after holding a sizeable lead became a habit.

The Opponent

The Indiana Pacers come into this game with a 36-32 record, having gone 5-5 in their last 10 games. In the offseason, Pacers president Larry Bird made it his mission to turn the plodding Pacers into more of an up and down outfit. With that mandate, he got rid of players like Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson. In their stead, they got faster paced players like Monta Ellis and Myles Turner. While the Pacers have gotten quicker in pace, they offense hasn’t been all that efficient. If the outside shots aren’t falling, the Pacers struggle offensively.

Defensively, though, is where their toast is buttered. They rank 3rd in defensively efficiency and feature long armed players both in the front court and backcourt. Paul George and George Hill remain two of the top perimeter defenders in the league, while rookie Myles Turner is turning into a presence on the interior.

Offensively, the Pacers are a penetrate and dish team now, with George and Monta Ellis serving as the primary drivers and Hill, CJ Miles, and Solomon Hill being the main beneficiaries on the perimeter. Up front, Ian Mahimi and Turner do most of their damage on 2nd chance opportunities and kick-outs within 15 feet.

3 Big Things

1. Rebounding

The Thunder lead the league in rebounding and have been killing the rebound differential in the last few games. This has become one of their strengths and is what allows them to turn small leads into insurmountable leads. The Pacers have a couple players with the ability to grab double digit boards in Mahimi and Turner. If  they can contain these two Pacers on the boards, they should be able to dominate this portion of the game.

2. Durant vs. George

One of the funner match-ups in the league. Durant has dominated the match-ups for the most part, but George is one of the few players in the league that can match Durant in terms of physical characteristics.

3. Perimeter offense

The Pacers are difficult to score against on the inside, allowing only 41.8 points per game in the paint. In addition, they average almost 5 blocks per game. For a team that gets a lot of their points in the paint, this may be a difficult game to score for the Thunder if their outside shot is not falling.

Thunder Killer

Paul George – This just feels like a game where George will get hot from deep. Maybe 30+ points on 5+ 3’s.

Thoughts from the Sideline

For those of you that participated in DTL, it was fun. It was my first venture with the DTL gang and I look forward to participating in other outing. I need to get my butt in shape, though.