Thunder vs. Pacers NBA Picks: Uncertain Playoffs Fate Adds Intrigue

David Lawrence

Sunday, April 12, 2015 12:38 PM GMT

Sunday, Apr. 12, 2015 12:38 PM GMT

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers are both right on the fine line between making and missing the NBA playoffs. The stakes on the NBA betting lines can’t be much higher.

The Oklahoma City Thunder Can Win Because…
They have Russell Westbrook, and Indiana doesn’t. It’s not that complicated: Westbrook is so much faster than Indiana point guard George Hill. He should be able to get into the paint at will, and if Indiana big man Roy Hibbert is not alert or effective in helping off his man, Westbrook can get all the way to the rim. He will very likely cause Indiana’s defense to pack the lane, and this will create shooting opportunities for the likes of Anthony Morrow and Dion Waiters. What’s really encouraging for the Thunder is that both Morrow and Waiters were really good on Friday night in a 116-103 win over Sacramento. Morrow hit five three-pointers and scored 19 points. Waiters was a decent 9 of 19 from the field, en route to 22 points. If OKC’s shooters are able to hit the open shots they’re sure to get as a result of Westbrook’s penetration, the Thunder should have more than enough offensive firepower to win this game. Westbrook scored 27 points against Sacramento, but the big key is that he gave out 10 assists, and that total was as high as it was because other guys made shots. You can make the prettiest pass and yet not get an assist if your teammate doesn’t finish the shot. As long as OKC’s wings hit their three-pointers, the Thunder should be in good shape.

Indiana’s perimeter defense was not that good against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. The Pistons hit 11 of 23 three-pointers and would have won the game if they hadn’t missed 11 of 23 free throws. Detroit lost by only four, 107-103. Oklahoma City has a great chance of scoring 110 points in this game, and that should be enough to win.

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The Indiana Pacers Can Win Because…
They are facing a team that – if it can’t get a great performance from Westbrook – is in huge trouble. With Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka both out of the lineup and out of the picture, everything falls upon Westbrook. He has to create this team’s offense, and if he’s off, OKC is in huge trouble. The big trump card Indiana has is that even if Westbrook gets into the paint – which he should be able to do all the time in this game – Roy Hibbert can stop Westbrook near the rim. Having Hibbert in the middle can give Indiana the confidence needed to stay on Oklahoma City’s shooters and not overhelp. Westbrook can hit six-foot floaters, but he will probably want to lay up the ball or dunk it at times, and Hibbert might not allow him to do that.

Oklahoma City’s defense is also struggling. The Thunder gave up 103 to Sacramento the other night and have regularly been giving up totals well over 100 points. Furthermore, Indiana received great shooting displays from both Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles on Friday against Detroit. Both players hit over 50 percent of their total number of shots and their number of three-point attempts. If they can get repeats of those performances in this game, they should win.

 

Outlook
The NBA odds underdog in tonight's match, OKC Thunder, had been slumping before their win over Sacramento on the weekend but the thing is that they’ve played some really tough competition. On the flip side, the Pacers have won four straight but that’s come against weaklings.

This should be a high-scoring game but because the stakes are so high, though, Westbrook – the best player on the court – is probably going to find a way to get the job done. Indiana might not get the same glowing numbers from Stuckey that it received on Friday against Detroit. Lean to Oklahoma City with your NBA picks.

NBA Pick: Oklahoma City +3.5 at BookMaker

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