Pacers (18-2, 9-2 road) vs. Thunder (14-4, 9-0 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.6 (10th), Pacers – 94.5 (1st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 101.9 (5th), Pacers – 105.5 (13th)
Pace: Thunder – 96.4 (4th), Pacers – 92.7 (22nd)
And now, as the dust has settled, let us all put red and orange colors aside and join hands and reunite under Oklahoma blue. Just in time, too, because oh baby, this is a big one. The Pacers, the best (current) team in the East and a squad that has been rolling through opponents with an outrageous margin of victory, coming in to Oklahoma City to play a Thunder team that’s undefeated at home. I am very excite.
I’ve said this before, but I don’t necessarily believe the Thunder are in the statement making business anymore, because everyone should understand that they’re good, and very much a title contender in the West. But there is something to be said still for beating the elite teams. The Thunder did that during their last homestand, rolling through the likes of the Clippers, Nuggets, Warriors, Spurs and Wolves, but that happened a couple weeks ago now. The NBA season is pretty forgiving as a whole, but in snapshots, it’s all about what you just did. And nobody is playing better than the Pacers right now.
Now, there are going to be disclaimers on this game, which is a shame. The Pacers are on a back-to-back having played in San Antonio last night, dismantling the Spurs. You can look at that two ways: 1) They’re tired and that gives OKC a big advantage or 2) they just whipped the Spurs on the road, proving even more how darn good they are.
Doesn’t matter to me, though. Kobe’s return is going to overshadow this game some, but maybe the best matchup of this early season is happening in OKC tonight.
Indiana coming in: Pacers played last night against San Antonio and whipped the Spurs
Three Big Things
1. PG vs. KD. Everyone’s at that stage with Paul George where they just like to keep repeating that he’s a star while saying exaggerated things like, “Is he the second best player in the league now?” just to try and get their point across. George is a superstar and one of the most dominant two-way players in the league. He’s locked up on Carmelo Anthony, and he’s defended the heck out of LeBron. Kevin Durant’s a bit of a different cover for him, so it’ll be fun to see how George approaches this one. But any time you’ve got two awesome players that are going to guard each other a lot, that’s fun.
2. Transition opportunities. The Pacers suffocate you in the halfcourt. They pressure you on the perimeter, create turnovers and force long 2-pointers. And then when you attack, they have Roy Hibbert waiting inside to contest at the rim, where there’s (statistically) been no better player in the league. The Thunder have got to get out in the open floor and create easy chances on the fly. It’s where they’re best anyway, but against the Pacers, it’s vital.
3. Kendrick Adams Perkins Collison Ibaka. David West and Hibbert are monsters inside that will rough you up. Then they bring in Luis Scola to throw a curveball with his footwork and unorthodox style. It’s going to be a busy night for OKC’s big men in trying to limit those chances and defend the painted area. Lately, a lot of teams have been playing small to which OKC has happily played with. This is a night to possibly rely on the big men a bit more, though Scott Brooks could force Indiana’s hand a bit and play Durant at the 4 with Adams or Perkins as his big.
Tip at 6:00 CT. Go One Team.