Where They At: Thunder
OKC took care of Sacramento as expected, and are still virtually a game behind the Pelicans for the 8 seed. Today, the Thunder have a chance to slip back ahead and regain control of their playoff destiny, with New Orleans likely to lose in Houston. OKC's identity is still an offensive force that has no defense, capable of beating bad-to-okay teams but outmatched against really good squads. The Thunder are also just about as healthy as they've been all season, meaning they're only down two of their very best players.
Where They At: Pacers
Indiana is fighting for an 8 seed of their own over in the Eastern Conference, and are winners of 4 straight. The good vibes from Paul George's return have fizzled due to the scary stabbing of Chris Copeland. Not to downplay the importance of either, but at this stage in the season those guys mean more emotionally to the team than they do on the court. The Pacers spent most of the season unable to score, with a top-10 defense keeping them in games. Over their last 15, they've improved to become an average offense, but their defense has slipped to 19th in the league. They've kind of mirrored OKC's late-season shift, with a lower starting point.
I really think this one will come down to energy and effort. Indiana has improved, but we kind of get desensitized to the poor play in the East and start thinking of 36-43 teams as legit just because they're further up the standings than they would be in the West. The Thunder have struggled most against teams that play good defense (Jazz, Spurs, Grizzlies) of late, Indiana hasn't been dominant on that end of the floor for a while. If OKC matches the fight of Indiana, they should win.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 113 Indiana 108
|2014-15 NBA Season Game 80
|April 12th, 2015
|Bankers Life Fieldhouse
|5 PM Central Daylight Time
|TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Indiana
|Injury Report: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Chris Copeland (Out), C.J. Watson (Questionable)
|This Season's Matchups: Feb. 24 (W 105-92)