Monday, November 10, 2008

Thunder at Indiana Pacers: Pre-game primer

Oklahoma City Thunder (1-5) vs. Indiana Pacers (2-3)
Monday, November 10
Conseco Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, Indiana
6:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Tonight's game against the Pacers really couldn't come at a better time. Coming off a frustrating 89-85 loss to Atlanta Sunday night, the Thunder are probably dying to get back on the horse and try again. Other than the game being on the road, where Oklahoma City is winless, this is really a pretty ideal opponent to rebound against as well.
For once, the Thunder won't have to play a studly defensive unit. The Pacers allow 96.6 points per game and even more telling is how Indy plays defense in wins versus losses. In two wins this season over Boston and New Jersey, Indiana allowed just 159 points with the opposition shooting only 36.6 percent. In three losses, the Pacers allowed an average of 108.0 points, with those opponents shooting 50.2 percent.
In Oklahoma City's five losses, four of its opponents rank in the top seven in the league in points allowed, with Atlanta, Boston and Utah being number two, three and four, respectively. So this could be a good chance for the Thunder to let loose a little offensively. Right now, OKC ranks last in the league in points per game at 86.2 and last in field goal percentage at 40.8 percent.
The focus tonight is Pacer star Danny Granger. Much like Atlanta's Joe Johnson, the Indy offense will likely run through him. Especially if the game is close down the stretch. Jeff Green will have the matchup and while it obviously will favor Indiana, Green does have the chance to body Granger pretty well. Green is long and has improved defensively this year, but he's still susceptible to the dribble-drive - something Granger does extremely well.
What to watch for:
More Russell Westbrook please. We've all been begging for it all season and it's not to say Earl Watson should sit. Westbrook and Watson play extremely well together on the floor. Honestly, I really like the lineup of Watson, Westbrook, Durant, Green and Collison - especially with Chris Wilcox likely out tonight with a sprained knee. Westbrook sparked the team last night with 11 in the first half and just gives OKC another offensive look. He's clearly got ability and the best way for him to improve is to play more.
It will be interesting to see how Kevin Durant carries over to tonight. He's played better on the road than at home this year, averaging about eight points more and shooting about 20 percent higher from field away from the Ford Center. He really found a groove in the second half shooting the ball against the Hawks and it is key for him to carry that over to tonight. We've yet to see KD bust out this year and go for 30-40 points. Maybe tonight.
Winning on the road is hard, in any sport, at any level. Especially for a young team, that really hasn't performed well on the road (7-34 last year and 0-2 this year). Oklahoma City's legs may be a little tired coming off a tough game last night - especially Durant who played a season-high 40 minutes. But he's young and should recover. The Thunder will have to focus on details to win tonight. The details they focused on for 46 minutes Sunday night, but lost in the last two. OKC keeps it close throughout but comes up short, yet again. Pacers 95, Thunder 90.


Steve H said...

Any idea when the D-League starts up? I would like to see them ship Weaver to Tulsa so he can pick up starter's minutes at point guard. Here's hoping we see a lot more Swift and Westbrook in tonights installment.

Royce said...

Tulsa's first game is November 28th.

I think Kyle Weaver could be an extremely nice compliment somewhere in the rotation but right now, he's not going to get any better just sitting and watching. Especially with Earl Watson dispelling the trade rumor.

I'm not totally versed in how the D-League process works - is it like minor league baseball with call ups and such?

Steve H said...

That was the impression I got. I semi-followed the Sonics last year- I think they had both Sene and Petro moving in and out of their regular roster and their D-League franchise. I like what I have read about Weaver (tough D,good ball handler) Maybe one of your trolls can give us some specifics on exactly how the D-League works?;)

Anonymous said...

The D-League started on 10/29 when the Thunder tipped off their first game.

Anonymous said...

Despite my bitterness about the whole move to OKC, I'm really rooting for Robert Swift. It looks like he might have a productive season; tonight was certainly a step in the right direction. He's a really talented kid, he has just had the worst luck with injuries. If he can stay healthy, he is easily the best center on the roster. Hopefully he'll have a nice season and then sign a massive contract with some other team so I can root for him in good conscience.