April 4, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) is defended by Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) in the fourth period at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

Game Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Indiana Pacers

Thunder (40-14, lost last 2) @ Pacers (33-21, won last 3)

Key Stats

Oklahoma City

* 103.00 points per game (2nd in the NBA) vs. 96.69 points allowed per game (18th)

* 47.7% FG (1st) vs. 42.6% FG allowed (3rd)

* 43.33 rpg (6th) vs. 40.83 rebounds allowed (8th)

* 18.44 apg (30th) vs. 16.41 TO pg (29th)

Indiana

* 96.91 ppg (15th) vs. 94.02 points allowed (10th)

* 44.0% FG (21st) vs. 43.5% FG allowed (8th)

* 43.13 rppg (8th) vs. 41.93 rebounds allowed (16th)

* 18.49 appg (29th) vs. 14.36 TO pg (13th)

Position-by-position Matchups

PG-Russell Westbrook vs. Darren Collison

SG-Thabo Sefolosha vs. Paul George

SF-Kevin Durant vs. Danny Granger

PF-Serge Ibaka vs. David West

C-Kendrick Perkins vs. Roy Hibbert

Key Reserves

Oklahoma City-James Harden, Nick Collison, Derek Fisher

Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, Leandro Barbosa, George Hill, Dahntay Jones, Lou Amundson

Injuries of note

Oklahoma City-None

Indiana-None

Breakdown:

The Thunder have very few weaknesses. They are one of the NBA’s most polished offensive teams, have the leading candidate for 6th Man of the Year in James Harden, and play stellar defense, especially in the post with their two tough bigs, Kendrick Perkins, and shot-blocking expert Serge Ibaka. The Thunder’s one glaring weakness is its inability to take care of the basketball. Sometimes this happens though with high octane offenses. They have a tendency to get wild with the basketball out on transition, and if the Pacers keep a cool head, this is a weakness that can be exploited.

Believe it or not, with a loss tonight Oklahoma City will reach its longest losing streak of the year. They’re tied at a season high two straight losses, so obviously they’ll be motivated to win on the road. Meanwhile the Pacers are arguably playing their best basketball of the season, coming off of three straight wins and having lost only three times in the last three weeks.

The Pacers’ recent success is due in large part to Danny Granger’s outstanding play, especially over the last few games. But tonight Granger gets a one-on-one matchup with arguably the NBA’s best player, Kevin Durant. While the Pacers will hope to match punches with Durant and Harden along the perimeter, Roy Hibbert and the Pacers’ bigs will have their collective hands full with Perkins and Ibaka, and Darren Collison and George Hill will struggle containing Collison’s former college teammate Russell Westbrook, one of the league’s best offensive point guards. From top to bottom, the Thunder are well-equipped to handle Indiana, and early-game deficits, for which the Pacers are unfortunately known, could kill the team tonight.

Prediction: Thunder 113, Pacers 104

On any given day, there’s not much the Pacers can do to withstand the Thunder. In all likelihood, Bankers Life Fieldhouse will be a near-sellout, but it probably won’t matter. While Indiana is strengthening its stronghold on the East’s #3 seed, the motivation to remain an elite-level playoff team won’t be enough, on its own, to overcome the vastly more talented Thunder.

Fantasy Outlook:

There are few secrets here. Indiana remains somewhat inconsistent on the fantasy front, while OKC has a handful of elite players, but no sleepers.

Lucas Klipsch believes in justice. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317

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