- When: Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 12:00 PM CST
- Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
“We’re Number 2! We’re Number 2!” That will be Oklahoma City’s battle cry heading into the playoffs. Hopefully they won’t be saying that in June. The San Antonio Spurs took care of business in their last two games, and locked in their No. 1 seed for the playoffs. The only thing still left to see is who the Thunder will face in the playoffs. The Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, and Memphis Grizzlies all have the possibility of finishing with the 7th seed.
The team the Thunder are facing are trying to avoid the same fate as the Thunder. The Indiana Pacers are currently tied with the Miami Heat for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but hold the tie-breaker by virtue of their conference record. With two games remaining for both, the ball is entirely in the Pacers’ court. Finish with the same record as the Heat and they end up with the No. 1 seed. This will be the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Pacers. The Thunder won the first meeting early in the season, 118-94.
The Pacers come into the game with a 54-26 record, and tied for first in the Eastern Conference. In the first 54 games of the season, the Pacers started hot with a 41-13 record. Since then, they are 13-13, with only 2 of those victories against playoff teams. Many theories abound as to what happened to the Pacers since February 20th. That day coincided with the Danny Granger for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen trade. It may be coincidence, but Granger was a veteran who was finally making his way back into the rotation from a knee injury that had robbed the past 1.5 seasons from him. With the trade, the Pacers lost a valuable locker room presence that may have helped in a locker room that may have already been fracturing. But the real issue at hand, may be the lack of offense. While never a high scoring outfit, the Pacers have slipped to near anemic levels, scoring only 96.6 points per game, which is the least of any of the playoffs team not named Chicago or Memphis. The lack of offense has coincided more with the regression to the mean for Paul George and Roy Hibbert. They probably played a bit over their heads in the first half of the season and have failed to reach that sort of production since.
Probable Starting Line-Ups
- PG – George Hill
- SG – Lance Stephenson
- SF – Paul George
- PF – David West
- C – Roy Hibbert
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Thabo Sefolosha
- SF – Kevin Durant
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Kendrick Perkins
3 Keys to the Game
1. Meaning of the Game – The Thunder are basically locked into the No. 2 spot in their conference. But the Pacers will be fighting and clawing in their last two games to try and maintain the No. 1 seeding. In appearance, this game seems to mean more to the Pacers. But don’t be surprised if the Thunder use this game to send a message: We don’t care if it’s Miami or Indiana, and we’re not helping one or the other.
2. Paint defense – The Pacers weaknesses fall right into the Thunder’s wheel-well. The Pacers’ lack of 3-point shooting causes them to lose the dish part of “drive and dish”. The Thunder are great at packing the paint and hoping their length will bother the opponents on the perimeter.
3. Offense – The notion that the Pacers are great defensively could be a bit of an illusion. Only 5 of the Eastern Conference teams score over 100 points per game. With so little offense in their conference, the Pacers have been feasting on offensively anemic teams. Against the top 9 teams in the West, the Pacers are only 7-10, with their last victory happening on February 7th, against the Trailblazers. With the Thunder at full strength, the Thunder should not have any problem outscoring the Pacers.