NBA Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers Preview, Prediction and Implications

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers are set to give NBA fans a high-flying matchup of two top-tier teams in each respective conference.

The Pacers have been riding the play of Paul George and Roy Hibbert all season long. In turn, they have established themselves as the three-seed in the East behind the New York Knicks and top-seeded Miami Heat.

Hibbert has been the man in the middle to strike fear into the opposition, averaging over 2 blocks a game and also putting up nearly 12 points and eight boards per contest.

George meanwhile has had himself a solid year also, leading the team in points with 18 and steals with almost two per game. Coming into tonight, George and Hibbert have helped Indiana to a five game win streak.

Oklahoma City has of course had a phenomenal year on the backs of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, giving them the power to challenge the San Antonio Spurs in a close race for the top seed out West. A couple of unsung heroes though, have been both Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin.

Ibaka is leading the team with over three blocks per game, making it difficult for anybody to drive the lane successfully when he is awaiting them. Martin is giving the Thunder a nice boost of 14 points off the bench, shooting 42 percent from long distance.

A key to the game is going to be George defending Durant. With David West and Hibbert, the Pacers will more than likely own the advantage down low. Point guard play will be won by the Thunder with Westbrook showing his skills as one of the better scorers in the NBA. Thus, it all comes down to Durant and George.

I see the Thunder prevailing, assuming Durant gets the best of George. However, if the Pacers can play their type of suffocating defense and hope that Durant or Westbrook have an off night offensively, they may be able to squeeze out the win.

Ryan Heckman is a Minnesota Timberwolves writer and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google