2012-2013 Game 76 Preview: Thunder Look For West Lead Vs. Pacers

Frank Vogel disapproves of a Thunder victory! NOOOOOOO!!!! - Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

If the Thunder want the #1 seed in the West, they're going to have to truly earn it.

2012-2013 NBA Season
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The Oklahoma City Thunder (55-20)
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The Indiana Pacers (48-27)
April 5th, 2013
The Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
7:00 PM CST
Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network Indiana
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), 1070 ESPN The Fan Indianapolis
Enemy Blogs: Indy Cornrows, 8 Points 9 Seconds, Pacers Pulse, Always Miller Time
Previous Meetings: Dec 9th (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)
Injury Report: Danny Granger (Out)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG George Hill
Thabo Sefolosha SG Lance Stephenson
Kevin Durant SF Paul George
Serge Ibaka PF David West
Kendrick Perkins C Roy Hibbert

If the Thunder want the #1 seed in the West, they're going to have to truly earn it. Just one night after crushing the San Antonio Spurs at home, they're venturing 740 miles north to the Banker's Life Fieldhouse and taking on the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers, while you might not have heard much from them this season, are one of the best teams in the East, and are in a must-win situation if they want to steal the second seed from the New York Knicks.

But what about Danny Granger? Well, Granger has played in a total of 5 games this season, and the Pacers have done fantastically without him. If he were in the lineup, this team might have been able to seriously challenge the Heat. But anyway, the hallmark of the Pacers is defense. And, aside from their small market, that's why you don't see much of them on national TV. They play some of the ugliest basketball known to man, scoring the 9th lowest points per game and allowing the second lowest points per game totals in the league.

Their last matchup with the Thunder was mainly notable for an epic Russell Westbrook swat. This block was part of a fourth quarter run that sent the Thunder to victory after they had struggled behind all game. Westbrook and Durant both had trouble getting into the lane, and it was perimeter shooting that had to pull the Thunder out of the deficit they had built. Kevin Martin had a fantastic game, while Westbrook and Durant didn't hit their stride until the fourth quarter.

Luckily, the Pacers aren't the type of team that will pull away from you with a huge lead. Your death against the Pacers will be slow and agonizing, like falling into quick sand. This creates lots of hopelessness, especially with the lack of fast breaks against this team, but it does allow late comebacks. Also, the Thunder have to take advantage of the Pacers' bench. Their players aren't quite on a Trail Blazer level of horribleness, but they do shoot low percentages and are generally on the court as little as possible. If that means letting Derek Fisher go off for a zillion threes again, so be it.

Winning against the Pacers on the road is going to be tough, but with the Western Conference Title in sight and a solidfied bench unit, I have no doubt about the Thunder's ability to push through.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 97, Indiana Pacers 93.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.

***

J.A. Sherman: Lastly, for no other reason than the fact that it is Ron Swanson, here is Ron Swanson breakdancing.

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