Pacers look to end road skid vs. struggling Thunder

When Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending injury Jan. 23,
it looked like the Indiana Pacers’ time as an Eastern Conference
contender was over, for this season at least.

But despite recent road struggles, the Pacers (45-29) have stayed
afloat, even through some recent adversity, thanks to Bojan
Bogdanovic.

The fifth-year small forward is averaging 21.3 points since
Oladipo’s injury, heading into an important game Wednesday at the
Oklahoma City Thunder.

The last time Indiana and Oklahoma City met, March 14 in
Indianapolis, the Pacers came back after trailing by 19 points
midway through the third to beat the Thunder 108-106 on Wesley
Matthews’ tip-in with 1.8 seconds remaining.

The Pacers then lost four consecutive games before Sunday’s home
blowout of Denver, a game in which Bogdanovic had 35 points.

Oklahoma City (43-31) has shown flashes recently, including in the
second quarter Monday when it came back from a big early deficit to
briefly take the lead before fading away at Memphis.

But on balance, the Thunder haven’t been playing well since
mid-February.

The offense that had been one of the best in the league for the two
previous months has wilted. Since the All-Star break, only the
Knicks have been less efficient offensively than the Thunder.

“If you’re going to be a great team,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan
said, “the thing that doesn’t allow greatness is inconsistency.”

That showed in Oklahoma City’s two stars Monday in Memphis.

Paul George and Russell Westbrook combined for 46 points but were
just 16 of 49 from the field. George was 5 of 15 from behind the
3-point line, while Westbrook made just 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.

Even with its recent struggles, Indiana has remained in fourth
place in the Eastern Conference, two games behind Philadelphia and
just ahead of Boston.

The Pacers and Celtics play twice in the final two weeks of the
regular season — Friday in Boston and April 5 in Indianapolis.

Indiana has struggled on the road of late, dropping eight
consecutive games away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Before that
stretch — the Pacers’ last home win came Feb. 23 at Washington —
Indiana was 17-12 on the road this season.

“We need to keep playing it out and just keep working our way into
playoff shape,” Indiana center Myles Turner said. “We’ve got a good
thing going right now. We’re still fighting for something.”

While the Pacers have struggled on the road, Oklahoma City hasn’t
been sharp at home lately — or anywhere really.

The Thunder have dropped three consecutive games at home and are
just 2-5 at Chesapeake Energy Arena since Feb. 23.

Oklahoma City is just 6-11 overall since the All-Star break,
dropping from being in contention for one of the top two seeds in
the Western Conference to flirting with eight place.

Indiana is expected to have point guard Darren Collison back for
Wednesday’s game after he missed the last three with a thigh
contusion.

–Field Level Media

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