Injuries mark Thunder, Pacers matchup

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — There has been a national debate taking place this past week over star players sitting out games due to rest. From Cleveland to Atlanta, head coaches have had decided to sit their best players in order to save them for the entire season.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan wishes he had that problem. He has been forced to scratch forward Paul George from Friday’s lineup due to a sore left ankle. The Pacers wound up falling 116-96 to the Phoenix Suns.

“He really hasn’t done anything in the last two days,” McMillan told the Indy Star. “The ankle was sore when he was playing and the last two days it really hasn’t gotten any better. We just want to make sure everything is OK there, for his sake and ours. Hopefully there isn’t anything and he just needs some time.”

The Pacers didn’t announce whether George will be suited up for Sunday nights game in Oklahoma City. He was scheduled to have an MRI Saturday.

But there is no doubt, they play much differently when their all-star forward is on the floor or not.

George leads Indiana in scoring (21.0), rebounds (7.1) and steals (1.7). If he can’t go, that a lot of slack the rest of the Pacers have to pick up.

Indiana is hoping the return of Rodney Stuckey will make up for some of the loss of George. Stuckey played Friday after straining his right hamstring Oct. 28.

“He said he felt pretty good and was ready to go,” McMillan told the Star. “You want to slowly work him back into conditioning and rhythm and not give him a ton of minutes right off the bat.”

The Thunder also sustained an injury during its win over Brooklyn Friday. Backup point guard Samej Christon suffered a concussion and is currently in the NBA’s concussion protocol. He also has a non-displaced left facial fracture.

According to Thunder officials, once Christon passes the protocol, he will be able to return to the lineup wearing a facemask.

That leaves the Thunder with only Russell Westbrook as the only point guard on the roster. Cameron Payne is still healing from foot surgery in the preseason.

According to Thunder coach Billy Donovan, Victor Oladipo will see time running the point with the second unit.

Victor I feel very comfortable with just because he’s played some point in Orlando and he’s done it a little bit here,” Donovan said. “I’m fine with that. I think we can create and generate enough ball handling when Russell is off the floor to at least get into our offense. That will be the biggest thing.”

It’s the Thunder’s reserves that has been a big reason the team has won two straight after a four-game losing streak. Friday they accounted for 39 points and 15 rebounds.

“I thought they did a really good job,” Donovan said. “I mentioned after a couple games ago that I felt like we as a staff, myself in particular, try to help those guys. I thought they were on the same page. I thought they moved the basketball. I thought they made the game easier for each other. They generated good shots. They helped each other. They defended. It was good to see them play the way they did and it was good to see them extend onto the lead.”

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