Thunder vs. Pacers Friday NBA injury report, odds: Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner have likely played final games of season for tanking Indiana
With the NBA's regular season ending in just over a week, prepare for some blatant tanking down the stretch as teams try to get as many ping-pong balls as possible for the draft lottery in May. The winner earns the right to select generational prospect Victor Wembanyama, a 7-foot-4 unicorn from France. Put the Indiana Pacers in the group of tanking teams, as coach Rick Carlisle said Thursday that All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton and starting center Myles Turner have likely played for the last time this season. The Pacers are +2.5 at home Friday vs. Oklahoma City.
While Indiana has been better than expected at 33-44, it sits in 12th place in the East and is 3.5 games behind Chicago for the final play-in tournament spot. It's just not happening. The Pacers enter on a four-game skid, losing each by at least 13 points and allowing an average of 134.8 points per game. Haliburton, Turner and Buddy Hield have each missed the past two games.
Haliburton leads the NBA in assists with an average of 10.3 per game and ranks second in points/assists double-doubles with 32. Overall since he was acquired last February from the Kings, Haliburton has appeared in 80 games with the Pacers and recorded 41 double-doubles. Turner is an excellent defender and is averaging career highs this season with 18.0 points and 7.5 rebounds while blocking 2.3 shots per game. Both Haliburton and Turner are signed long-term – Turner got an extension this season – so there's no point in risking injury to them.
Hield had one more season left on his deal. He might keep playing only to improve his potential trade stock this offseason as he is likely to be dealt. Hield is second in the NBA (to Golden State's Klay Thompson) with 271 made three-pointers, a franchise single-season record. He has been dealing with an illness but practiced Thursday and is expected to play.
Oklahoma City was the very picture of tanking the previous few seasons but currently holds the 10th and final play-in spot in the West, so anyone who is healthy will keep playing. Alas, star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — the league's No. 4 scorer with 31.3 points per game — has missed the past two games with a sprained left ankle and is out Thursday.
Indiana lost at OKC 126-106 on Jan. 18. Gilgeous-Alexander and Isaiah Joe each scored 23 points to lead the Thunder. Lu Dort had 22 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Haliburton missed that one, while Turner had seven points and six blocks in 20 minutes and Hield only three points in 19.
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