OKC at IND Preview – Improving on Final Road Trip

INDIANAPOLIS – With the Playoffs beginning in exactly one week, the Thunder has seven days to continue getting better as a unit to prepare.

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team has everyone healthy for the first extended stretch since Christmas Day, giving the Thunder a return to the continuity that has defined the organization over the past five years. With its normal starting lineup intact this season, the Thunder is 19-3, including the team’s last two wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans.

With a road tilt against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday at noon CT, the Thunder begins its final road trip of the regular season, which concludes with a road game against New Orleans on Monday and the finale at home against the Detroit Pistons.

“We just have to keep getting better,” forward Kevin Durant said. “Our coaches have done a great job with us all year. We have three more games to keep improving before the real season starts.”

The Pacers are the first challenge for the Thunder in this final week of the season, and as one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, Indiana has presented opponents with all sorts of challenges throughout the season. It’s defense, led by Roy Hibbert has been a bear to deal with this year, and it gets plenty of offense from Paul George and Lance Stephenson. The Thunder can counter with its bigs in Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Nick Collison and its playmakers Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson.

“They’re a tough team defensively,” Westbrook said. “I think we match up across the board very well with our bigs, guard play and our bench as well. They’re a good team at home. We just have to go in there with a mindset to go in there and take care of business, especially with it being an early game.”

These final games against opponents with varying styles presents the Thunder with a chance to continue honing all aspects of its game. On defense, the Thunder wants to be able to contain the ball to prevent dribble penetration and then close out on shooters. On offense, Brooks’ team wants to space the floor properly, get out into transition and make plays for one another to get high percentage looks. Over the next week, the Thunder has a chance to work on all of those goals, so that by next weekend, it can put together full 48 minute efforts in the Playoffs.

“We’ll just continue to progress and try to make progress day-by-day, figure things out, get better with ball movement and player movement, and get easier baskets for ourselves,” Jackson explained. “We have some of the best players in the world, especially breakdown players, but we can’t call on them to do that all the time.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 1-0 against the Pacers this season, and overall is 6-4 against Indiana in the regular season.

- The Thunder has turned the ball over just 25 total times over the past three games, for an average of just 8.3 per game.

- The Thunder is 43-7 this season when out-rebounding its opponent, including 17-2 when out-rebounding teams by 10-or-more.

Broadcast Info:

12:00 p.m. CT. TV – ABC; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network