Indiana Pacers @ OKC Thunder Game Preview and Pick: Smith Remains A Force Off the Bench

It seems that every time the Thunder end up in the loss column, they spend the next after going on an extended winning streak. After losing to the Lakers on March 4th, the Thunder have since rattled off three straight wins, which gives them an 8-2 record since returning from the All-Star break.

Oklahoma City is on a four-game homestand, and they’ve already won the first two games. The next opponent in town will be the Pacers, and while Indiana’s starting lineup is one of the best in the league, I think their bench could play a vital role in tonight’s contest.

Game Preview

At certain points throughout a season, a team's schedule will become an absolute gauntlet, which is the case for the Indiana Pacers. Five of the Pacers' last six games have come against future playoff teams and they have another matchup tonight with a postseason team as well.

Indiana has taken some lumps over this stretch, but they will enter tonight off a solid 111-97 win over the Orlando Magic. In that win, the Pacers had six players finish in double figures, with Pascal Siakam and Tyrese Haliburton leading the charge with 20 points apiece.

Strong offensive performances from that duo are unsurprising, but what did stand out about that win was the fact that Indiana held a team under 100 points for the first time since February 4th. Defense is the biggest reason why the Pacers rank 18th in the league in point differential over the past two weeks, despite ranking 11th in points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time in that span (115.7), per Cleaning the Glass.

Playing high-level offenses like the Mavericks in that span hasn’t helped Indiana’s numbers, and it won’t get any easier for them tonight against the Thunder. In OKC’s most recent win, they scored 124 points on the depleted Grizzlies, which has them ranked 10th in points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time over the past two weeks (116.4)(Cleaning the Glass).

The most significant difference between these two teams is that OKC is also in the top ten for points allowed per 100 possessions in non-garbage time during that span and is also 3rd in opponent field goal percentage (44.8%) since the break.

Pick for the Game

When it comes to the Pacers' offense, there is no denying that Haliburton, Siakam, and Turner run the show. However, what makes the Pacers' offense one of the best in the league is their scoring depth. Of course, that depth took a hit with Bennedict Mathurin being ruled out for the season, but other role players like Jalen Smith have stepped up in a major way recently.

Smith missed the Pacers' last game with an illness, but he is expected back tonight. For my play, I’ll be taking him to go over 13.5 points + rebounds, which is the line set on most Indiana sports betting apps. In his last 15 games, Smith has exceeded this total in nine of them, and so far in March, he is averaging 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Since the break, Smith is actually third on the Pacers in rebound chances per game with 9.1, which should work in his favor tonight since the Thunder ran 19th in opponent rebounds per game in that same span (44.5). While OKC is a tough defensive team, Smith scored 14 points against an equally as tough Minnesota defense in his most recent game, and I think he can continue to thrive around the basket against the Thunder’s second unit.


  • Jalen Smith Over 13.5 Points+Rebounds (-115) on DraftKings

*odds subject to change

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