Game Day Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder seek to end Indiana Pacers win streak
Oklahoma City Thunder will complete a back to back set facing the Indiana Pacers who’ve won 6 in-a-row.
Coming off a complete game victory the Oklahoma City Thunder look to stop the streaking Indiana Pacers. Though the Thunder have relied heavily on Westbrook all season, the win Sunday was one of the most satisfying of the season.
Several players on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster produced solid two-way efforts with Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson specifically leading the way. An on going issue has been producing offense when Russell Westbrook rests, which grew exponentially with the Enes Kanter injury. In the victory over the Blazers though, Donovan found the right recipe of starters and reserves. So, the fact Oladipo and Roberson worked well with Cameron Payne and Joffrey Lauvergne to increase the lead versus the Blazers was a positive sign of growth.
Indiana offers a similar test as Portland did, in that their early season was punctuated by a lack of defense and focused on offense. Granted the Pacers 6-game win streak has been collected via 5 wins versus non play-off seeds and a big victory over the Rockets. The record of those 6 teams is 128-183. Remove the Rockets from that mix and the Pacers have beat 5 teams with a 91-166 cumulative record or a 35% win percentage.
Russell Westbrook stands at 25 triple-doubles on the season after failing to register one against the Blazers. He did however score 42 points in the victory. In the past two games Westbrook has made a more concerted effort to score and distribute.
If the reserve unit can replicate their second half effort from the win over the Blazers it will go a long way to allow Russ some additional rest.
Through 52 games Westbrook has totals of 1,613 points, 539 rebounds and 533 assists. To average a triple-double on the season Westbrook must collect 820 in each category.
With 30 games remaining he needs another 281 rebounds and 287 assists. That translates into
averages of 9.36 rebounds and 9.50 assists over his final 30 games.
Keys to Winning:
Both teams need this victory: When the two teams met early this season the Pacers were without Paul George, but pushed the Thunder to overtime and claimed the victory. The Fieldhouse is a tough arena to win in but both teams are motivated, especially given their schedules heading into the All-Star Break.
While the Oklahoma City Thunder get the advantage of being on their home court it be to face the past two champions. As stiff as the Thunders competition is the Pacers pre All-Star break schedule is definitely more difficult. Indiana has the Cavaliers and Wizards on tap twice each, the Spurs and a Bucks team who is scheduled to welcome back Khris Middleton this week.
No one is going to shed any tears for Indy in Oklahoma City after the Thunder just traveled over 16,000 miles this past month. Suffice to say both teams are invested in the win with tougher matches ahead.
Defensive accuracy in guarding Paul George and Myles Turner:
With Paul George back in the lineup the Pacers are a different squad so Andre Roberson will have his hands full. Likewise Steven Adams, Joffrey Lauvergne and Domantas Sabonis will need to keep Myles Turner off the boards and not let either play above their season averages.
Force the pacers to defend:
Although the Pacers boast a solid defensive ranking, much of that can be attributed to their recent ease of schedule. It’s been a minute since Indiana have been tested, so the Thunder need to push them on both ends as they might catch Indy off guard.
Replicate two-way team effort witnessed Sunday vs Blazers:
The defensive game plan Sunday was sound, but the production of Thunder players not named Westbrook was equally solid. In a rarity Westbrook returned to the court with the reserves having built a cushion which transpired via ball – player movement, great team defense and winning key hustle categories like fast break points, paint scoring and second chance points. To garner the win in a tough environment versus a rested Pacers squad the effort has to be on par with the win over Portland.
Capitalize on few pluses: The teams are similar in their point production, transition scoring, points produced off turnovers and pace. The few areas the Thunder are far superior are in rebounding and they are slightly better at scoring in the paint though Indy has been solid in terms of paint protection. None of the Pacer guards are particularly capable of stopping point guards who can drive the ball, so Westbrook may want to continue to emphasis scoring and distribution over rebounding again.
Must Read: Five Shooters the Thunder Should Target
Oklahoma City Thunder Starters:
- Enes Kanter is out til after the All-Star break with March 8th listed as a potential return date.
- Alex Abrines will be a game time decision as he deals with ongoing back spasms
- Semaj Christon was on the bench versus Portland, but was CD DNP (coaches decision, didnot play).
- Likewise Alex Abrines was available, but was also a CD DNP
- Josh Huestis remains with the D-League affiliate Blues squad
OKC Thunder Reserves:
Indiana Pacers Starters:
Point Guard: Jeff Teague
Shooting Guard: C.J Miles
Small Forward: Paul George
Power Forward: Lavoy Allen
Center: Myles Turner
Memphis Grizzlies Reserves:
Point Guard: Aaron Brooks, (Rodney Stuckey), James Young
Shooting Guard: Monta Ellis, Glenn Robinson III
Small Forward: (Thaddeus Young), Georges Niang,
Power Forward: Rakeem Christmas
Center: Al Jefferson, Kevin Seraphin
- Thaddeus Young – wrist remains a game time decision
- Rodney Stuckey – ankle remains a game time decision
Recent History: The teams have played to a draw over their past 16 games each winning 8 times. Through the past 3 seasons the teams have split their series. Having already lost to the Pacers earlier this season if the trend continues the Thunder would take this game.
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The Venue:Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
The Tip: 6:00 PM CT (7:00 PM ET)
TV: FS Oklahoma HD
Radio: WWLS 98.1FM OKC / 930AM (ESP)
After Indiana the Oklahoma City Thunder have dates to play the last two championship teams. First up they’ll have two days off to rest up for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Then, in a date every Oklahoma City Thunder fan has awaited since the announcement made on July 4th, 2016 will finally be upon us.
Following the Pacers visit Thunderous Intentions for a full game recap and share your opinion on tonight’s match in the comment section.
Countdown to ‘the return’ Saturday February, 11th
Live Blog starting at 7:00 PM CT.
Of note, in honor of this fated date the Thunderous Intentions team will be on site Saturday just prior to , during and after the Warriors game. Invite your friends and come join the team, to discuss “the return” in our live blog. Clearly the Thunder will yet again be short handed, and inevitably the major underdog. However, short of being in attendance at the Peake it feels appropriate for as many Thunder Nation fans to accumulate in one location for the experience.
Like the infamous David Bowie song – the countdown is on…. with 6 days until a certain forward returns with the team he abandoned OKC fans for. Everyone is welcome to join the live blog, regardless of whether it’s to reminisce over favorite memories, share your angst, or just to be with like minded individuals.
Win or lose, let’s experience it together.