Preview: Indiana At Oklahoma City
When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, February 19, 2016
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA and look to keep the wins coming when they resume play after the All-Star break with Friday’s home contest against the Indiana Pacers. Oklahoma City is one of three teams to reach 40 wins and has won 16 of its past 19 games.
Point guard Russell Westbrook won his second consecutive All-Star Game MVP award on Sunday but said he is much more concerned with regular-season contests. “I couldn’t wait to get back to practice and back to the regular season,” Westbrook told reporters. “All-Star Weekend was fun, but that’s not a goal. The goal is to win a championship, so we get back here, get back to the drawing board and get ourselves ready.” Indiana has sputtered too often during the first two-thirds of the season and stands in sixth place in the Eastern Conference – just 1 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Detroit. “This is our season right here,” All-Star forward Paul George told reporters. “We’re in a position right now to make the playoffs. We want to move up. From this point on it’s about (building momentum), gaining some confidence, winning some games, stringing a good run together.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, FSN Indiana, FSN Oklahoma
ABOUT THE PACERS (28-25): George poured in 41 points in the All-Star Game – one shy of the record set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962 – as he was provided the opportunity to show he is fully recovered from the gruesome broken right leg he suffered 18 months ago. “I had a hard-fought summer, hard-fought rehab year,” George told reporters. “It was just a very upward climb. It took every day and, really, every moment of rehab to get through it. There were a lot of days where I felt like I was down and out but just stayed with it.” George hasn’t missed a game this season and is averaging a career-best 23.1 points, 10th-best in the NBA.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (40-14): All-Star small forward Kevin Durant has scored 20 or more points in 39 straight games and is optimistic about where the squad is headed. “We never would be satisfied around this time of year,” Durant told reporters. “We’re not worried about where our ceiling is. We’re just going to keep working every day and wherever it’s at, at the end of the season, we’ve got to be satisfied with it.” Oklahoma City added backcourt depth prior to the trading deadline by acquiring shooting guard Randy Foye from the Denver Nuggets for point guard D.J. Augustin, forward Steve Novak and two second-round picks.
1. The Thunder have won five straight home games against the Pacers, with Indiana’s lone victory in Oklahoma City occurring on April 5, 2009.
2. Indiana swingman C.J. Miles is 4-of-18 shooting over the past two games.
3. Oklahoma City is down two assistant coaches as Maurice Cheeks underwent hip surgery on Wednesday and Monty Williams remains on leave after his wife Ingrid was killed in a car accident last week.
PREDICTION: Thunder 112, Pacers 105