Pacers vs Knicks

Game Preview: Pacers vs Thunder

Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 7:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
by Greg Rappaport
Pacers.com Writer
@Greg_Rappaport

Last Updated: March 14 at 9:26 AM ET

Matchup

The final stretch starts now.

After defeating a moribund Knicks team on Tuesday, Indiana (43-25) tips off a stretch of play that will feature 13 out of its final 14 opponents either in or fighting for a spot in the playoffs.

The grueling stretch begins on Thursday night, when the Pacers will host Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder (42-26).

Indiana enters the matchup with a prolonged offensive struggle, one that might be difficult to reverse against OKC's elite defensive unit.

Following two straight sub-40 percent shooting performances, the Pacers were able to crack 40 percent in their win over the Knicks, but still were off the mark from long range (8-of-28).

"I've just got to hit shots. It happens," said Myles Turner after Tuesday's win. "There's going to be times when I hit a lot of shots and times when I don't. I just have to keep shooting every day and hope they fall."

The Thunder, owners of the best record against Western Conference teams currently in playoff position, will enter Thursday's game on the second leg of a back-to-back, giving the Pacers a crucial rest advantage.

Last season, in George's first year with the Thunder, OKC underachieved expectations with a first-round exit against the Utah Jazz. This season, however, the Thunder have been one of the league's most dangerous teams, due much in part to the performance of George.

Now in his ninth season, George is averaging career highs across the board in points (28.2), assists (4.2), rebounds (8.2), and steals (2.3), turning the Thunder into a force to be reckoned with.

Thursday's game figures to be a low-scoring affair as both teams enter the matchup with a top-five defensive unit. Indiana's 105.2 points allowed per 100 possessions ranks second in the NBA, while the Thunder's 105.7 is close behind at third.

Projected Starters

Pacers: PG - Darren Collison, SG - Wesley Matthews, SF - Bojan Bogdanovic, PF - Thaddeus Young, C - Myles Turner
Thunder: PG - Russell Westbrook, SG - Terrance Ferguson, SF - Paul George, PF - Jerami Grant, C - Steven Adams

Injury Report

Pacers: Victor Oladipo - out (right knee surgery), Tyreke Evans - out (personal reasons)

Thunder: Markieff Morris - out (neck soreness), Andre Roberson - out (left petellar tendon)

Last Meeting

December 13, 2017: In Paul George's first game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse since the trade that brought Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana, the Pacers fell 100-95 in a game that came down to the final possessions.

Thaddeus Young had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line with 40.8 seconds remaining, but split the pair, leaving the Pacers down by one.

On the other end, an offensive rebound found the hands of Alex Abrines, who canned the triple to put the Thunder up by four as OKC was able to close out the game from there.

"They played their game, this is what they do, they offensive rebound, they turn you over and they score off of that," said Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. "All three of those things we knew we had to be good at, they won. So, we didn't execute tonight."

Noteworthy

  • The Thunder lead the all-time series 50-37 and have won two straight against the Pacers.
  • Thunder forward Paul George was drafted by the Pacers with the 10th pick in 2010. He played seven seasons for Indiana (2010-2017), making four All-Star Games and helping lead the Pacers to consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals (2013, 2014).
  • The Pacers and Thunder will close their season series in Oklahoma City on March 27.
  • Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was teammates with Darren Collison for two seasons at UCLA (2006-2008).

Tickets

Indiana hosts former Pacer Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday, March 14 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »

Broadcast Information TV & Radio Listings »

TV: FOX Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: 107.5 FM/1070 AM The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Slick Leonard (analyst), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)
Please Note: Inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Pacers radio broadcasts can be heard on 1080 AM instead of 1070.

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