Thunder-Pacers Preview

The Associated PressApril 5, 2013

The Oklahoma City Thunder are the second-highest scoring team in the NBA and the Indiana Pacers allow the league's second-fewest points per game.

A matchup of contrasting styles will be on display Friday night in Indianapolis, with the Pacers looking to clinch their first Central Division title in nine years with their sixth straight victory.

Oklahoma City (55-20) is averaging 106.0 points, putting it a fraction behind Houston for the NBA's highest scoring average. Indiana (48-27) is allowing an average of 89.9 points to trail Memphis as its defense prepares for Kevin Durant, who scores a league-best 28.3 points per game.

Both teams are battling for playoff positioning.

The Thunder won 100-88 over San Antonio on Thursday to move within a half-game of the Spurs for the Western Conference's best record. They're even in the loss column, and Oklahoma City holds the tiebreaker.

"We're a team that's been through it. We went to the Finals and the Western Conference finals the last two years, so we know the importance of the playoffs,'' Durant said. "It's not like this is our first go-around. So, we know we want to play as many games as we can here in Oklahoma City."

The Pacers are trying for their first six-game win streak since a seven-game run last April. They trail New York by a half-game in the race for the East's No. 2 seed.

Indiana completed a 4-0 West trip with Monday's 109-106 win over the Clippers, and will clinch the Central on Friday with a victory or a loss by Chicago at home to Orlando.

"Well I think we're playing at a high level and I think it's good for our confidence but we've the last couple days had the mind-set we're putting that behind us," coach Frank Vogel said. "We still have a lot of work to do and we're still a half-game back from New York, with all the wins we got out there, we're still not in the two seed right now."

Russell Westbrook scored 27 points and Durant had 25 on Thursday for Oklahoma City.

"We've got to keep playing. You win this one but drop one tomorrow, you're right back where you were,'' reserve Nick Collison said.

Vogel was happy that his team had three days off at home before starting a back-to-back set capped by Saturday's visit to Washington.

"It's always important to try to get your sleep patterns back on track more than anything," Vogel said. "You come back if you have to play 24, 48 hours after you come off the West coast, you're still on West coast time and that's challenging, so hopefully the extra couple of days will help us."

Durant matched his seventh-worst shooting effort of the season when he made 9 of 24 shots for 27 points Dec. 9 in a 104-93 home win over Indiana.

That contest featured a high-scoring first half in which the Thunder led 57-56 with the Pacers shooting 60.0 percent. Oklahoma City limited Indiana to 33.3 percent in the second half after coach Scott Brooks' halftime speech focused on defense.

Durant and Westbrook combined for 30 of the Thunder's 47 points after halftime.

The Pacers won last season's meeting in Indianapolis 103-98 despite Durant's 44 points.