The two powerhouses collide Friday night in Indianapolis, where the Pacers go for their sixth win in a row.
Indiana completed a perfect four-game road trip with Monday’s 109-106 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers as Roy Hibbert scored 15 of his 26 points in the first quarter and grabbed 10 rebounds. Paul George added 23 points and 10 assists for the Pacers, who made all eight of their free throws in the final 32 seconds of play.
“I’m so proud of our team’s performance,” Hibbert said. “We knew they were going to make a run but we weathered the storm. We took care of business tonight.”
All five Pacers starters scored in double figures with David West adding 16 points in the triumph, Indiana’s eighth in nine tries.
The Pacers are comfortably ahead of Chicago for a Central Division title, sitting 6 1/2 games ahead of the Bulls, and are only one-half game behind the New York Knicks for the East’s second seed.
Indiana’s magic number to clinch a division crown is two. The team is 29-8 as the host and has won three straight and 24 of 29 at home.
Oklahoma City made up some ground in the Western Conference with Thursday’s 100-88 win at San Antonio. The Thunder are now just one-half game behind the Spurs for the West’s No. 1 seed.
Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 27 points and Kevin Durant followed with 25 points, nine boards and six assists. Derek Fisher hit five 3-pointers and chipped in 17 points off the bench for the Thunder, who have won two straight and five of six games.
“He made plays and he made shots,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said of Fisher. “He knows how to play, he knows where to be. You don’t have to make every shot but you have to make plays.”
Fisher is a playoff-tested veteran for the Thunder, who used a 20-3 run in the first half to break the game open. They are 17-1 this season when holding opposing teams under 90 points.
The Thunder sit 3 1/2 games ahead of the Denver Nuggets for Northwest Division supremacy and are 22-15 away from the OKC this season.
Friday’s matchup between Oklahoma City and Indiana pits one of the top offensive teams against a stingy defense. The Thunder are even with Houston for first in the NBA with 106.0 ppg, while the Pacers are second in opponents’ scoring at 89.9 ppg.
Durant leads the NBA with 28.3 ppg and scored 27 points in Oklahoma City’s 104-93 home victory over the Pacers on Dec. 9. West hit 10-of-16 from the field for a team-high 21 points in that one for Indiana, which has dropped four of the previous six matchups in this series.
Oklahoma City has lost four of five trips to Indy.