Thunder Will Catch Pacers At Nearly Their Best
By Randy Renner
When it comes to dealing with injuries the Thunder don't have anything on the Indiana Pacers, in fact the Pacers have probably been hit harder than OKC, at least in the number and length of the injuries.
For much of the season some of the Pacers' key players have been on the injured list, losing a total of 180 games. Thunder players have lost a total of 144 games.
Pacers star Paul George, who broke his leg over the summer during Team USA workouts, is the only one left on the injured list now and it shows. Indy has won seven of the last 10 and the Pacers offense, which had been stuck in neutral all season, is shifting into high gear scoring 104.1 per game over their last seven after averaging 92.6 in their previous eight. They'd been averaging in the low to mid-90s most of the season.
The Thunder of course are dealing once again with Kevin Durant's absence. He will miss his 30th game tonight after having a procedure on Sunday to switch out a screw that had been inserted in his right foot to assist in the healing of that Jones fracture.
The head of that screw had been irritating a bone, which generally doesn't happen in those sorts of things, but it did in this instance. The bone is healing properly and is far enough along so that the change in screws could be made.
Durant will be re-evaluated at the end of the week and the team will have a better idea then just how long he'll be gone this time.
Thanks to the brilliant leadership and play of All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook the Thunder have been playing their best basketball of the season lately, winning six straight and eight of their last nine.
The Thunder are averaging 115.5 points during their streak after entering the stretch scoring just 99.5 per game and to compliment that high scoring offense they're also holding opponents to just 40.9 percent shooting since January 26th, the best mark in the league. They also lead the NBA in rebounding at 47.2 per game and they're third in offensive rebounds (an area where they've traditionally struggled) at 12.3 per game.
This will also be a great chance to see what newly acquired center Enes Kanter can do as he goes up against Roy Hibbert. Hibbert is playing much better this season than last when there was talk of a trade, the big man is averaging 11.0 points on 45.4 percent shooting and 7.1 rebounds a game.
Indiana backup point guard Rodney Stuckey is coming off consecutive 30-point games off the bench. And the bench is a strong point for the Pacers. That group leads the NBA in bench rebounds at 19.4 a game and is third in scoring at 41.2 points so it will be interesting to see how the Thunder's new and improved bench against Indiana's.
Don't let the Pacers overall 23-33 record fool you, this bunch is as healthy as its been all season and playing better than at any other time this season so tonight's game should be a pretty good gauge of just where the Thunder are at this point.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 this evening on Fox Sports Oklahoma and for those of you outside the state, the game will also be carried on NBA-TV.
We'll have updates today from shootaround and from the arena late this afternoon. Be sure to check out our Twitter feed page for immediate updates.