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Thunder Look for Another Win over the Pacers, Portland Seeks to Improve Playoff Seed

The Oklahoma City Thunder (58-21) will enter Sunday’s game with less pressure after clinching the West’s No. 2 seed while its opponent, the Indiana Pacers (54-26), is still trying to enter the postseason with its desired seeding.

This comes as the Pacers recently hit the stall button, going 3-8 since March 22. Its 98-86 loss against the Miami Heat on Friday is just another example of not moving forward in their quest to grab the home-court advantage for the playoffs. At one point they led the Heat as the Eastern Conference’s top team thanks to its record, but now the tide has now turned and they will need the Heat to stumble.

We all know how quickly things can change and on Saturday, the Heat lost to the Atlanta Hawks, 98-85. The Pacers are now tied with the defending champ for the No. 1 spot.

No pressure on Sunday but the team will look for Roy Hibbert to break out of his own slump. In his 22 previous games, the player has double-digit rebounds for only one game while he previously did so 18 times over his first 57 games.

In the last 10 games, he’s endured an 8.5 point average (33.3 percent shooting).

As for Oklahoma City, its most recent play included a 116-94 Friday win over New Orleans which enabled many of its top players to see limited action as they rested.

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook has returned to action at the right time but is not playing in consecutive games yet. Against the Pelicans, Westbrook scored 24 points but whether he’ll participate in Sunday or Monday’s games remains to be seen.

Since playing in the team’s four of six April games, he has a 28.5 point average (51 percent shooting) and 6.8 assists.

Kevin Durant said of his teammate via the Associated Press, “He’s well rested and he’s taking advantage of a lot of matchups. That’s what we need from him. He’s playing extremely well. He’s picking and choosing his spots well. He’s playing with a lot of intensity for us.”

From their three previous meetings, Oklahoma City has defeated Indiana in all of them by double digits. Durant plays well against them and in their Dec. 8 matchup, a 118-94 win, he had 36 points with 10 rebounds, while Westbrook contributed 26 points with 13 assists.

In their last four games against the Pacers, Durant has scored 35.3 points while Westbrook has a 26.0 point average, 9.0 assists and 7.2 rebounds in his last six games.

Indiana will get the win on Sunday (-2, 192.5 o/u). Looking ahead, the Pacers sit at 11/2 to win the 2014 NBA Championship while the Thunder are 9/2.

In  other Northwest division action, the Portland Trail Blazers (52-28) will take on the Golden State Warriors (49-30) on Sunday as both teams are vying to improve their positions for the postseason.

LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge

The Trail Blazers have won their last seven of eight games which has come on LaMarcus Aldridge’s return. During this time, they’ve only allowed their opponents to 96.3 points (42.8 percent shooting) per game while previously giving up 103.3 and 45.4 prior before this run.

With a win over Golden State, the Trail Blazers will clinch at least a fifth-place seed. This will stop the Warriors from moving past them but they also have their eyes on the fourth seed in a battle against the Houston Rockets.

Playing in the postseason is a big deal for Portland as they missed the opportunity in seven of the 10 previous seasons. Home court advantage last came in 2009.

Golden State hasn’t played in a lot of postseasons either but thanks to a 112-95 Friday win over the Lakers, they punched their ticket for this year–a second straight season for the playoffs–but last year their visit was short lived after they got knocked out by the San Antonio Spurs in the semifinals.

A win on Sunday would give them the sixth spot, but a fifth spot also isn’t out of the question.

Portland gets the win on Sunday (-3, 203 o/u).



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