Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 7:00 PM ET at Chesapeake Energy Arena
Game Preview: Pacers (18-2) at Thunder (14-4)
Scott Agness | December 6, 2013
One night after a notable win in San Antonio, their first over the Spurs in the last 11 tries, the Pacers (18-2) are gunning for another one Sunday night in Oklahoma City (14-4) as the teams square off for the first of two meetings this season. The Pacers are wrapping up their first big road trip of the season – they’re 3-1 entering the fifth game – and they are already guaranteed to return home with a winning record.
With 25 percent of the season behind them, this is their seventh set of back-to-back games (they'll play 20 back-to-backs total this season).
As was expected, the Thunder are in top pack of the Western Conference, with San Antonio and yes, Portland, who snapped Oklahoma City's eight-game win streak on Wednesday – two nights after the Trail Blazers knocked off the Pacers. The Thunder, who’ve sold out 97 consecutive regular season games, and Pacers are the last remaining undefeated teams at home (both 9-0).
Kevin Durant, the NBA’s top scorer with 28.5 points per game, leads the Thunder. Paul George’s 24.6 points per game scoring average slots him fourth, behind Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Durant, who also grabs 8.2 rebounds and dishes out 5.1 assists per game, is a difficult cover, but one that George eagerly awaits. It’ll be a matchup of the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month for the first month of the season.
The Thunder score nearly 103 points per game and shoot 45 percent from the floor as a team. While they aren’t a deep threat (33 percent), they get to the foul line frequently, 27 times per game, and convert better than anyone else in the league (81.5 percent). Serge Ibaka, who’s averaging career-high 14.7 points and 10 rebounds per game, is a big reason why they also lead the Association in rebounding. When they when they’ve won the rebounding battle this season, the Thunder are 10-1.
Russell Westbrook missed the first two games of the season as he recovered from meniscus surgery from last season, but he’s back and electric as ever. Keys for the Pacers include not allowing transition buckets, defending without fouling, and rebounding.
Pacers: Danny Granger (out, strained left calf)
“It’s fun to be a part of. They’re playing with great confidence and great belief in their basketball team that we can win anywhere, against anyone.” – Frank Vogel on the Pacers’ 18-2 start
“We’re just going to keep going. We haven’t really accomplished anything. We have a lot of the season left. Basically, we finished the quarter of the season with 20 games, so we just got to keep building. … We’re just constantly building this momentum, becoming more tied together and getting a little bit more confident in what we’re trying to look for in terms of our offense, and it’s paying off for us.” – David West
- The Thunder swept the season series last season and have won three straight at home over the Pacers.
- Oklahoma City’s Director of Medical Services, Dr. Donnie Strack, served as a Graduate Assistant athletic trainer for the Pacers from 2002-2005 and was often known as Reggie Miller’s ball boy.
April 5: The Pacers took care of business on the road, sweeping all four Western Conference opponents, but then they returned home and took a 97-75 pounding from the Thunder. The Pacers, who “laid an egg,” according to Paul George, missed 16-of-18 shots in the final quarter, including all nine 3-point attempts. They were behind by just five entering the fourth quarter.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 34 points, 22 of which were scored in the second half. Russell Westbrook finished with 24 points and nine assists, and Serge Ibaka added 12. Roy Hibbert led the Pacers with 22 points and eight boards. David West had 17 and Paul George was limited to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. The Thunder managed 21 second chance points to the Pacers’ seven.
Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »
TV: FOX Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: FM 107.5/AM 1070 The Fan, Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Michael Grady (studio host)