Finals Preview?

By Randy Renner

Earlier in the season it looked like the Thunder and the Indiana Pacers would find themselves in the NBA Finals and that still may happen but the Pacers apparently need to find themselves first.

Indiana is struggling having lost nine of the last 15 games but with Miami's loss to Atlanta last night the Pacers can still get the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs despite losing to the Heat on Friday.

The Thunder have gone through a few struggles also this season while dealing with injuries to Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha. All three are expected to play today and the Thunder are 19-3 with their regular starting five on the floor.

Perhaps the Pacers biggest concern is the play of their outstanding center Roy Hibbert. Hibbert has seen his numbers shrink, especially his rebounds. Hibbert's rebounds have fallen off a cliff, going from 10 in October and 8.7 in November all the way down to 4.6 in March and 1.5 so far in April.

He has just six rebounds in Indiana's last five games and the Pacers are 1-6 over the last seven games in which Hibbert has started.

That's good news for the Thunder who have matched up well with Indy over the years.

Oklahoma City (58-21) has posted double-digit victories in all three meetings with Indiana (54-26) since the start of last season, the most recent a 118-94 home win December 8th. Kevin Durant had 36 points and 10 rebounds, Russell Westbrook added 26 points with 13 assists, and the Thunder shot 61.0 percent that night.

Durant has scored 35.3 per game in the past four matchups, and Westbrook has averaged 26.0 points, 9.0 assists and 7.2 rebounds in the last six meetings as the Thunder have gone 5-1 against the Pacers.

Nothing about that should change today. After their dominating win over New Orleans Friday night, Thunder players talked about focusing in on the Pacers, knowing a national TV audience would be watching and realizing it could be a preview of a possible Finals matchup.

Struggling or not, the Pacers will have the Thunder's full attention today.