The Thunder, looking like a feasible playoff team with a record of 8-5, defend home court against the re-invented Indiana Pacers. The Pacers, built mainly around defense last season, switched to a faster pace and offensive focus in 2016. Part of this process was the firing of long-time coach Frank Vogel, clearing out space for well-known coach Nate McMillan. The re-invention has seen mixed results so far, as the Pacers boast a mediocre record of 6-7. Given the off-season acquisitions of Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson, two big name veterans, the Pacers’ record is a bit underwhelming. But the jury is still very much out on the Pacers.
Paul George has been out for a game, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be available to play against the Thunder today. In two games without George, the Pacers lost to Boston and Phoenix. If OKC wants to replicate those situations, they’ll do well to force turnovers. Indiana normally averages 24 assists a game, but only managed 17 and 18 against Boston and Phoenix, respectively. C.J. Miles is a really solid three and D presence, and tonight will be his first missed game of the year. Miles’ absence tonight only further hurts the depth of Indiana’s wings.
The Thunder are coming off of an easy win at home against Brooklyn. It was another one of those classic Westbrook 30 point triple-doubles. It was the fourth 30 point triple-double for Westbrook this year. Westbrook certainly has the potential for another triple-double, with the Pacers being short on wings. Westbrook hasn’t played McMillian as a coach in a while, so it’s hard to know exactly how things will match up.
The backup point guard situation will be tenuous, with Oladipo and Abrines likely to share possessions. Semaj Christon is out with concussion-like symptoms, leaving the Thunder with only Russ at point. The Pacers, who average the fourth most steals in the league, are likely to take full advantage while Russ is out.
Both teams are missing passers and lack shooting, so things will be sloppy. But given that the Thunder are in the league’s dungeon when it comes to half-court offense, a fast pace is always good. The Nets’ fast pace, second in the league, certainly helped OKC out on Thursday night. A fast pace usually benefits Oladipo the most specifically. Kanter usually isn’t affected too much by pace. But in this instance, it’s not likely Kanter will be a factor tonight. With Big Al in the post and no one to pass him the ball, he’s toast. Nevertheless, Indiana simply doesn’t have the scoring power they need without both George and Miles. And if Paul George plays, than all bets are off and things are likely to even out. In that case, it will probably come down to the better superstar, or who is hotter at shooting that night.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 112, Indiana Pacers 94.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Drop a comment and let us know!
Injuries: Paul George (Questionable), Kevin Seraphin (Questionable), C.J. Miles (Out), Cameron Payne (Out), Semaj Christon (Out)
Time: 6:00 PM CST
Place: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: FSIN, FSOK