The Thunder and Indiana Pacers played only once during last season's 66-game game schedule. The Pacers led by as many as 24 points and eventually hung on to win 103-98 in Indianapolis and take a 4-3 all-time series lead against OKC.
Leading Indiana that night was small forward Danny Granger, a former All-Star who scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. Granger is out until at least February with a left knee injury and will miss Sunday's 6 p.m. contest against the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“They're good without him. They're really good with him,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said of the Pacers after Saturday's light practice. “Granger's one of the best small forwards in the league.”
Even without Granger, the Pacers still lead the league in total rebounds this season (47.0). Last year, Indiana outrebounded OKC 50-40 as forward Paul George had a career-high 16 rebounds. Center Roy Hibbert had 12 boards and four blocks.
BIG O vs. BIG D
Sunday's game will match the league's most potent offense in OKC against one of the premier defenses in Indiana.
The Thunder leads the league in scoring (106.2), field-goal percentage (.492), 3-point percentage (.426) and free-throw percentage (.837). The Pacers are first in opponent field-goal percentage (.409) and 3-point percentage defense (.314), and second in the league in points allowed at 91.2 (behind Memphis at 91.1).
“(Against) the good defensive teams, you can't just always get your first option, so execution becomes big,” OKC forward Nick Collison said.
Brooks added: “Defensively, they're the best in the league. They challenge. They're physical. They put their bodies on you and they rebound the ball very well.”
Second-year Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson, rookie guard Jeremy Lamb and center Daniel Orton were reassigned to the NBA Developmental League's Tulsa 66ers in time for Saturday night's game against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers at the SpiritBank Event Center.
Lamb is the league's fourth-leading scorer with a 26.0 average.
It is the second assignment for Lamb and Orton and the first for Jackson.
OKC is 8-2 against Eastern Conference teams and 8-2 against Western Conference teams. … The Thunder is 5-1 on Fridays, 2-0 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays, 2-1 on Sundays and Wednesdays and 1-1 on Thursdays. … OKC's seven-game winning streak is the league's longest active run. During the streak, the Thunder has outscored opponents by an average of 17.0 per game. … OKC is 10-0 when five or more players score in double figures. … The Thunder is 9-1 this season when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook score 20-plus points in the same game. … Sunday will be the 60th straight regular-season sellout at The Peake and 82nd straight including postseason play.
Collison on the Thunder playing so well early in the season: “It's not seen as a negative for us to be playing well early. I think we're happy to be playing well. But we know if we don't play well tomorrow, then all of the sudden we're not playing well anymore. So it's just (concentrating on) the next one. We've got to keep going to the next one.”
THUNDER'S NEXT FIVE
SUNDAY: vs. Indiana, 6 p.m. (FSOK) — The Central Division's infirmary is overflowing with Danny Granger of the Pacers, Derrick Rose of Chicago and Kyrie Irving of Cleveland.
WEDNESDAY: vs. New Orleans, 7 p.m. (FSOK) — This will be the third meeting of the season between the Thunder and the future Pelicans, but the first at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
FRIDAY: vs. Sacramento, 7 p.m. (FSOK) — Playing its fifth game in 13 days, Thunder should be well-rested when it faces a talented Kings team that just can't seem to figure out things.
DEC. 17: vs. San Antonio, 7 p.m. (FSOK) — The 16th home game in the first 24 starts, and it all began with Spurs winning at the buzzer in Thunder's season opener on the road Nov. 1.
DEC. 19: at Atlanta, 6:30 p.m. (FSOK) — Thunder should be out to avenge its 104-95 loss at home Nov. 4, when the Hawks won easily despite not having their best player in Josh Smith.
By John Rohde