OKC Thunder Looks to Win Third Straight Against Indiana Pacers

After two good home wins against the Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets, the OKC Thunder host the Indiana Pacers in the last game of a three-game homestand.

The Pacers have historically struggled to win against the OKC Thunder in Chesepeake Energy Arena. They’re 2-5 in their trips to Oklahoma City.

But before we go any further into the preview, let’s just look back at a few positive takeaways from yesterday’s game against the Nets.

Some net positivity

Nov 16, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a play against the Houston Rockets during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Westbrook had another triple double-his fourth of the season-with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. He also shot rather efficiently, hitting 13 of his 21 shots. Victor Oladipo also turned in a great performance of his own, shooting 64.7% from the field while scoring 26 points on the night.

Even though the Thunder gave up 40 points in the first quarter, they managed to get it together and hold the Nets to 65 points the rest of the game.

The Thunder also shot to the tune of a 55.1% from the field.

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The injury bug biting the Pacers

A win on Sunday would be great for team morale, as the Thunder head out for a three-game road trip in which they play a back-to-back against the Lakers and Kings, then a date in Denver.

The Pacers are most likely going to play without all-star forward Paul George due to an ankle injury. He is due to undergo an MRI on his ankle to make sure that there is no structural damage.

Small forward C.J. Miles is also questionable due to a sore left knee. The Pacers are yet to make an announcement on the matter.

Apr 23, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers, guard Rodney Stuckey (2) and forward Paul George (13) and guard C.J. Miles (0) watch from the bench against the Toronto Raptors in game four of the first round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Toronto 100-83. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Those are both huge blows as George leads the Pacers in scoring with 21 PPG, while Miles is fourth-best scorer on the Pacers with 13 PPG. Miles also has the fourth-best 3-point field goal percentage at 48.4%. Without their best perimeter scorers, the Pacers will struggle to drain (or attempt) many three-pointers against a Thunder defense that has the seventh-best opponent 3P%.

The Pacers’ porous defense

The Pacers have had their issues the defensive end. They’ve given up 107.5 PPG on 51% eFG, both of which are the 8th and 10th highest marks in the NBA respectively. After considering the fact that Paul George – who has three NBA All-Defensive Team selections – might not play, the Pacers will struggle mightily to stop a Thunder offense led by the explosive Russell Westbrook.

However, against an Indiana Pacers side that is fourth in the NBA in steals per game (9.3), protecting the basketball is a must for a Thunder team ranking fifth in turnovers/game.

Expectations

Consider this: Both teams are top 10 in terms of possessions/game and are also top 15 in terms of turnovers/game. This game will be exactly what you’d expect it to turn out to be: Quick and extremely sloppy.

However, if the Pacers do play without either Paul George or C.J. Miles, the Indiana Pacers will simply be unable to stop the Thunder on the defensive end of the floor and won’t be able to match the Thunder’s scoring output.

Under no circumstance, however, can the Thunder let up. Most of their losses were in winnable games in which they mentally lapsed at particular points, and allowed the opposing team to dominate the proceedings with no resistance.

Tipoff is at 7 PM ET on Sunday. This game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma.

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