Game Preview: Undermanned Indiana Pacers visit slumping Thunder

Edmond Sumner, Caris LaVert Indiana Pacers(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Edmond Sumner, Caris LaVert Indiana Pacers(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Indiana Pacers‘ trek to stay alive in the playoff hunt continues Saturday night as they head on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have lost 18 games in their last 20 contests. This game will kick off a two-game road trip for the Pacers, with a pivotal game versus the Wizards following this outing.

At 29-33, the Blue and Gold remain 9th in the East, but only 0.5 games ahead of 10th place Washington, who are surging lately, and 3.5 games away from missing the play-in tournament. After two straight losses at home against Portland and Brooklyn, the Pacers need to secure a win at Chesapeake Arena if they want to climb up the Eastern Conference standings. Despite their inconsistencies, they are still only a game out of 8th place Charlotte and four games away from 6th place Boston to secure an outright playoff berth, though only 10 games remain for the team.

Defense and balance are key for the Indiana Pacers

Once again, Nate Bjorkgren will manage a lineup that can see as much as seven players out for tonight due to injuries. Fortunately, Indiana possesses the upper hand with continuity, recently defeating similarly injury-marred Oklahoma City at home, 122-116, on April 21.

With key players’ statuses still up in the air, but leaning on doubtful, the rest of the team needs to step up and handle the load once more. Caris LeVert will get his numbers with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis possibly not playing, but steady contributions from players like Oshae Brissett, who has been a wonderful addition, and Edmond Sumner, who has been playing more and a lot better, alongside the usual contributors, will be key to securing this one early.

Defensive intensity also needs to be better after surrendering 133 and 130 points in their last two outings. The Thunder are dead-last in the league in offensive rating while the Pacers are a middling 16th in defensive rating, says Basketball-Reference.

Injury Report for Indiana Pacers (29-33)

JaKarr Sampson – out (concussion), Myles Turner – out (toe), Malcolm Brogdon – game-time decision (hamstring), Jeremy Lamb – game-time decision (knee), Domantas Sabonis – game-time decision (back), Goga Bitadze – game-time decision (ankle), T.J. Warren – out for the season (foot): per CBS.

Injury Report for Oklahoma City Thunder (21-42)

Luguentz Dort – out (hip), Shai Gilgeous Alexander – out (foot), Mike Muscala – out (ankle), Al Horford – out for the season (inactive): per CBS.

A Little History…

ON THIS DAY: On May 1, 2014, the Indiana Pacers staved off elimination against the Atlanta Hawks who were up 3-2 in the First Round of the 2014 Eastern Conference Playoffs and looking to close out the 1st-seeded Pacers. David West and Paul George both chimed in 24 points while Lance Stephenson added 21 to propel Indiana and tie the series. Jeff Teague had 29 for Atlanta in a losing effort.

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