Thunder (58-21, 25-14 road) vs. Pacers (54-26, 34-6 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.6 (7th), Pacers – 103.9 (23rd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.6 (5th), Pacers – 99.3 (1st)
Pace: Thunder – 95.6 (9th), Pacers – 92.5 (20th)
Three games left. And with two of those three very winnable against the Pelicans and Pistons, the Thunder could lighten up today in what could be a preview of the NBA Finals. But I wouldn’t expect it. This team wants to get its place set, and then worry about the rest. Scott Brooks said as much on Friday before the Pelicans game.
So assuming everyone is full go, this is a big, influential game. The Thunder obviously prefer to draw the Pacers in the Finals rather than the Heat, which adds interesting wrinkle to this game. A win for Indiana and they take a big step toward locking up homecourt through the playoffs in the East. And if the Thunder very much prefer to see them, maybe it’s in their best interest to aid the Pacers in their hunt for the No. 1.
The Pacers though have been slumping along, which makes them dangerous. Because they’re looking for a game to snap out of it and start playing better and feeling better. This could be that kind of game. So really, it means this game is a win-win for OKC. Lose, and it helps the Pacers get the No. 1 and gives them confidence going in to the playoffs. Win, and you guarantee yourself the No. 2 seed and can take the final two games easy.
Three Big Things
1. Halfcourt. The Pacers have fallen apart, but not on the defensive end. They’re still playing at a high level on that end, so the Thunder’s halfcourt offense will have to be crisp and well executed. Because the Pacers make you earn points. The difference maker there that the Pacers really can’t combat: Russell Westbrook. George Hill, C.J. Watson — the Pacers don’t really match up well there. Maybe they try Lance Stephenson on him.
2. Hungry Hibbert. What’s up with Roy Hibbert? From an apparent dominant big man, to someone that’s routinely grabbing two and three rebounds a game. Most still feel he’s the Defensive Player of the Year, which means Serge Ibaka might have a little extra juice to prove something today.
3. PG on KD. Durant lit George up in the last meeting, showing why he’s such a difficult matchup and why you can’t defend KD like he’s LeBron. George learned the hard way that given space and playing physical doesn’t work with Durant because he can just shoot over you. But any time you have superstar against superstar, you have something fun to watch.
Tip at 12:00 CT. Go Three Games Left.