Indiana at Oklahoma City
Time: 8 PM ET
TV: FSMW, FSOklahoma, NBA TV
Spread: OKC -7
Betting odds c/o Bovada
Just as Oklahoma City seemed ready to surge in the Western Conference standings, the injury bug hit again: Kevin Durant is out indefinitely after having a surgery on his right foot. He’ll be re-evaluated in a week, but is definitely out tonight. Even so, the Thunder are seven-point favorites in NBA live lines over the Indiana Pacers. The total is set at 205, which is high; for an explanation of how to read NBA betting lines, click here.
The Pacers have been without Paul George the entire season, but the former Most Improved Player is seeking to return in late March. With George in the fold, the Pacers could be considered a contender in the East. He’ll have a couple weeks to shake off the rust before the postseason, and widespread speculation that the Pacers would trade power forward David West was misplaced considering that Indiana believes it can be a true contender with its dynamic swingman back in the fold. Be all this as it is, the Pacers still sit a game behind No. 8 Brooklyn in the playoff chase.
Indiana has been hot, as winners of seven of its past 10, including three-straight. So, to expect a Pacers upset tonight might not be ill-founded. OKC’s Russell Westbrook is perfectly able to carry a team, but the Pacers are a tough defensive squad and have the team defense to mitigate some of Westbrook’s relentless efforts to penetrate the paint.
Even without Durant in the fold, the Thunder are now riding a six game win streak and are just three games behind No. 7 San Antonio in the West. Holding onto a playoff berth may be difficult, and the Thunder will want to move up into the 6th or 7th seed so as to avoid a first round matchup with either Golden State or Memphis, both of which have been playing phenomenal basketball (especially defensively for the Grizzlies) all season.
OKC made a big move at the trade deadline, swinging Reggie Jackson to the Utah Jazz in exchange for big man Enes Kanter. Kanter made Kendrick Perkins more than expendable, as Kanter has a good back to the basket game and could be just what the Thunder need to put itself over the proverbial hump in the West.
Kanter had a monster game Sunday night in the Thunder’s 119-94 win over the Denver Nuggets. The Turk put up 20 points and 12 boards while hitting 8 of 12 from the field. Westbrook also was highly efficient, shooting the same 66 percent from the floor for 21 points, 17 (!) assists and eight boards. That kind of well-rounded effort is what Westbrook is capable of when he keeps his head up and looks for his teammates.
Also, expect Serge Ibaka to continue to play a bigger role in the offense. The highly touted defensive standout shot 18 field goals in the win and put up 20 points, eight boards, and astoundingly—eight blocks. The OKC defense is enough to stifle the Pacers, and being without last year’s MVP in Durant does not hurt as much as it seems it might. The Thunder are a very good, very deep team that has the potential to upset any team in the West once the postseason begins.
Rookie big man Mitch McGary and Cleveland Cavs discard Dion Waiters both have performed well and combined to put up 27 points off the bench, part of the Thunders 49 points off its bench in the win. To have a second unit capable of that type of production means the Thunder are not heavily reliant on jumping out to huge leads early, and in the event that it does, the reserves can maintain the lead left for them by the starters. Expect this game to be closer than the seven-point spread, though Indiana will have a tough time since the Pacers are just 11-19 on the road this season.