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Apr 4, 2024 6:43 pm

Thunder dig deep with top two players hurt, prepare for Pacers

josh giddey

The Oklahoma City Thunder hope they don’t have to play without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams in the playoffs.

But as the Thunder try to make their push for one of the top spots in the Western Conference, they’re also working to navigate life without their top two scorers.

There’s a good chance both will sit out Friday when Oklahoma takes on the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.

Gilgeous-Alexander, third in the NBA in scoring at 30.3 points per game, has missed four of the last five games with a right quad contusion and is listed as out for Friday’s game.

Williams, averaging 19.5 points per game, is listed as doubtful after missing the last two games with a left ankle sprain.

Oklahoma City (52-24) has dropped back-to-back games, including Wednesday’s 135-100 loss at Boston.

The Thunder come into Friday’s game in third place in the Western Conference, just behind Minnesota and Denver.

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault often experiments with different combinations, trying to find lineups that work and get his players experience in different roles. Without Gilgeous-Alexander and Williams, that challenge has become more daunting.

“We’re not asking too much of anybody,” Daigneault said. “It’s just we have to work together for advantages on a lot of plays. And when we do that, we can generate them. But there’s times when Shai’s got the ball and they just double him and the advantage is created by the defense. That’s not happening right now.”

Josh Giddey continues to be a bright spot for the Thunder. In his last eight games, Giddey is averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 62.9 percent from the field with 5.9 assists and 2.0 turnovers.

The Pacers (43-34) are coming off a 115-111 loss in Brooklyn on Wednesday.

With five games remaining, Indiana is trying to climb out of play-in position and into the playoff field. The Pacers were mere percentage points behind Miami for sixth place in the Eastern Conference before the Heat played Thursday night.

In the first meeting of the season between the Pacers and Thunder, March 12 in Oklahoma City, Indiana’s Pascal Siakam had 18 points and 11 rebounds while Tyrese Haliburton had 18 points and 12 assists.

“Games like tonight are the reason you make a trade for a guy like Pascal Siakam,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said after that game. “He can create, he has length defensively, he can affect shots at the rim defensively and he rebounds.”

Siakam is averaging 21.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in 36 games since being traded from Toronto. He’s shooting 54.3 percent.

Friday’s game features two of the league’s top offenses.

Indiana is second in the NBA with a 120.0 offensive rating (average points per 100 possessions) and leads the league in shooting at 50.4 percent, while Oklahoma City is in fourth in offensive rating at 118.3 and third in shooting at 49.8 percent.

While the Pacers were strong offensively in that March 12 meeting, shooting 53.9 percent, it was Indiana’s defense that ultimately helped it to victory. The Pacers held Oklahoma City to 43.4 percent from the field.

Indiana’s Myles Turner missed Wednesday’s game with a sprained finger.

–Field Level Media

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