Bennedict Mathurin
(NBAE/Getty Images)

Game Preview: Pacers vs Thunder

Friday, March 31 at 7:00 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse

Game Preview

Two of the youngest, fastest-playing teams in the NBA will showcase their talents in downtown Indianapolis on Friday.

The Indiana Pacers (33-44) aim to end a four-game skid in the conclusion of a three-game homestand when hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder (38-39) at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Going into the 2022-2023 season, the Thunder had the youngest roster in the NBA with an average player age of just 23.14 years old. Indiana ranked 10th (25.08) in youth before the season tipped off.

Oklahoma City likes to play fast and attack inside, averaging the third-most points in the paint per game (55.2) and the second-fastest pace (102.0). The Pacers lead the NBA In fast-break points per game (18.3) and are tied with the Thunder for playing at the second-fastest speed, according to

After beating the Pacers in January, the Thunder hold a 1-0 season series lead going into the final meeting between the two teams.

During its recent losing streak, the Pacers have averaged 116.3 points per game but given up 134.8 on a nightly basis. On Wednesday, the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks (55-21) handed the Pacers a 149-136 Central Division loss.

Indiana has been without its top three leading scorers – Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Myles Turner – the last two games due to injuries and illness. Chris Duarte also has only played five minutes total since March 13 and missed seven of the last eight games entirely.

Despite the losing streak, Pacers standout rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard have both put up solid numbers during the stretch.

Mathurin has scored at least 26 points in the last two games, including 29 points while pulling down nine rebounds in the loss to the Bucks.

Nembhard, taking over at the point for Haliburton, has averaged 12.5 points, 6.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds over the last four games.

Against Milwaukee, Nembhard posted a career-high 15 assists to pass Chuck Person (295) for second-most assists by a Pacers rookie in franchise history. Nembhard now has 299 assists, but will not be able to catch Jamaal Tinsley’s all-time rookie record of 647 assists during his rookie season in 2001-2002.

After starting the season 15-21, the Thunder have moved into a Play-In Tournament spot by going 23-18 since Jan. 3.

However, the Thunder may be without their star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, “SGA,” who ranks third in the NBA in scoring at 31.3 points per game while also putting up 5.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, due to a sprained ankle. Gilgeous-Alexander, considered among the favorites for the 2023 Most Improved Player award, has missed the last two games due to his injury.

Following Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, the No. 6 overall draft pick from 2021, is averaging 16.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists while rookie Jalen Williams, the 2022 No. 12 pick, is putting up 13.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the Thunder.

On Wednesday, the Thunder beat the Detroit Pistons (16-59) on the road 107-106. Jalen Williams scored 27 points in the victory to go along with eight rebounds and six assists, Luguentz Dort tallied 20 points, six rebounds and three steals and Aaron Wiggins added 19 points off the bench.

Both teams have Play-In Tournament hopes, but the Thunder have stronger chances.

On Wednesday night, the Thunder sat a half game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for 10th in the Western Conference standings. For the Pacers, they are four games behind the 10th-place Chicago Bulls (36-39) with just five games left on their schedule.

After taking on the Thunder, Indiana will hit the road to play the Cleveland Cavaliers (48-29) on Sunday.

Projected Starters

Pacers:  G - Andrew Nembhard, G - Bennedict Mathurin, F - Aaron Nesmith, F - Jordan Nwora, C - Isaiah Jackson

Thunder: G - Josh Giddey, G - Isaiah Joe  F - Luguentz Dort, F - Jalen Williams, C - Jaylin Williams

Injury Report

Pacers: Myles Turner - questionable (sore left ankle), Kendall Brown - out (right tibia stress fracture), Chris Duarte - out (sore left ankle), Tyrese Haliburton - out (right ankle sprain/sore left ankle)

Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - out (left ankle sprain), Chet Holmgren - out (right foot surgery), Lindy Waters III - out (left foot plantar fasciitis), Kenrich Wiliams - out (left wrist scapholunate ligament surgery)

Last Meeting

Jan. 18, 2023: Oklahoma City raced to a 17-1 lead to start the game and didn’t trail the rest of the way in a 126–106 win over Indiana at Paycom Center.

The Thunder led 36-20 after the first frame and the closest the Pacers got to the lead was at 43-39 with 4:43 left in the second quarter. After trailing 58-44 at intermission, the Thunder outscored the Pacers 68-62 in the second half.

Gilgeous-Alexander and Joe each scored 23 points for the Thunder and Dort finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. In the win, the Thunder dished out a franchise-record 41 total assists.

Six players scored in double figures for the Pacers. Nembhard led the way with 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds while Mathurin had 13 points and five rebounds.

Indiana shot 41.5 percent overall while the Thunder finished 50.5 percent shooting.

The Pacers were outrebounded 48-42 and matched a season-high 24 turnovers.

  • The Pacers haven't lost a season series against the Thunder since the 2017-2018 season.
  • In the Oklahoma City era, the Pacers have a 15-13 record against the Thunder. At home, the Pacers hold a 9-6 edge since the franchise moved from Seattle to OKC.
  • In games without Haliburton, the Pacers have a record of 5-16. 
Broadcast Information (TV and Radio Listings >>)

TV: Bally Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)

Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)


The Pacers conclude a three-game homestand at Gainbridge Fieldhouse against Josh Giddey and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, March 31 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets >>