Thunder vs. Pacers: Pregame Primer
Thunder (30-22, 12-15 road) vs. Pacers (28-22, 19-6 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 – 104.0 (22nd), Pacers – 105.1 (15th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.6 (8th), Pacers – 104.8 (10th)
The Oklahoma City Thunder are really starting to become the definition of consistently inconsistent. Since the beginning of the new year, this is how their record has gone: L3, W3, L1, W1, L2, W3, L3, W2. To many, this inconsistency may be a negative. To me, though, I see it as a team learning how to navigate through the ebbs and flows of the schedule. Instead of getting too down on their losses, the team regroups, and puts together a couple wins. Conversely, instead of basking in the glory of a multiple game win streak, this team is able to take the punches, get off the mat, and fight another round.
It really says a lot about the leadership on this team. From head coach Billy Donovan, to Nick Collison and Russell Westbrook, and on down to the young veterans, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, and, yes, even Enes Kanter, this team is structured at the top to withstand physical and emotional blows. The team loses three of its top five scorers from the previous season: the team is securely in the playoff hunt within striking distance to move up several spots. The team suffers injuries just as they start to feel healthy: they readjust and the next man up steps up. It’s been like that all season. The Thunder knew it would be like that.
As the young players on the roster continue to adjust to their roles on this team, remember this season and all of its ups and downs. Many teams would have looked at the road-heavy January that was facing them and folded. The Thunder finished that month 7-8. Nothing spectacular to write home about, but also nothing to scoff at either. This team is learning. It’s fighting. And, honestly, that’s all we can ask for until the front office decides to make a move.
Season Series Summary
This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Pacers. In their first meeting in November, the Pacers came into the ‘Peake and beat the Thunder 115-111 in overtime. It was one of the worst losses of the season for the Thunder, as Indiana was without Paul George in this one. The Thunder had to battle back from 9 down in the beginning of the 4th quarter, but couldn’t keep up with Indiana in overtime.
The Pacers come into this game with a 28-22 record, having won their last 6 games. As the season has progressed, the Pacers have adjusted to new head coach Nate McMillan’s offensive and defensive sets, and the results are starting to show on the floor. After starting the season 15-18, the Pacers have gone 13-4 since then, putting together a 5 and a 6 game win streak during that span. In those 17 games, the Pacers have averaged 109.4 points per game.
Much of that improvement is due to the improved play of Paul George, who is averaging 22.6 points and 6.1 boards per game. Offseason acquisition Jeff Teague is starting to come around after struggling in the beginning of the season. Second-year F/C Myles Turner is turning into a potential double-double machine, posting averages of 15.6 points and 7.3 rebounds. The rest of the rotation is rounded out with complimentary veterans like Thaddeus Young, CJ Miles (don’t google the name if you have your spouse around), Rodney Stuckey, Monta Ellis, and Al Jefferson.
Thaddeus Young is out with an ankle injury, while Myles Turner (illness) and Rodney Stuckey (ankle) are questionable.
- Enes Kanter (forearm)
3 Big Things
1. Explosive Wings
No, I’m not talking about what you ate at last night’s Super Bowl party. The main guards and wings for the Pacers all have the ability to put up 25 points in a game. Between Miles’ marksmanship, George’s overall game, and Teague’s ability to mix the perimeter game with the driving game, Indiana’s offense definitely starts on the perimeter. Then, when the starters sit, Stuckey and Ellis have the ability to continue the onslaught. The Thunder will have to be sound defensively from the perimeter. The Thunder allowed the Pacers to shoot 50% (11-22) from three in their first meeting, while also getting outscored by 6 in the paint.
2. Attack Them Inside
If Myles Turner misses tonight’s game, the Thunder need to attack the paint as much as possible. Turner leads the Pacers in blocked shots at 2.2 per game. Nobody else on the team averages more than 0.5 blocks per game. The Pacers are good defensively on the perimeter. But once you get past that line of defense, the rest of the Pacer bigs, outside of Turner, are either too small or too slow to be effective rim protectors.
3. Andre Roberson
Helluva week for Roberson coming up. Paul George. LeBron James. Kevin Durant. It’s crazy when your easiest cover for the week is likely George. Outside of him being a defender, I would like to see him do what he did yesterday in the Portland game. Hit the offensive glass. Make well-timed cuts towards the rim. Hit your lay-ups. Hit most of your free throws. When it comes to Roberson and offense, you applaud the basics.