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Josh Giddey, Thunder on the rise with Pacers up next

Jan 15, 2023; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After playing much of the last two seasons firmly in the shadow of Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey is starting to find some time in the spotlight.

Heading into Wednesday’s matchup with the visiting Indiana Pacers, Giddey is playing the best basketball of his young career.

The second-year guard has scored 20 or more points in three consecutive games, including a 28-point performance in Sunday’s win at Brooklyn, which matches a career high. Giddey has scored at least 20 points in eight of his last 12 contests.

“Josh has been really good,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “He’s being aggressive, he’s making the right play, he’s playing super-efficient basketball. The kid works hard and he has the mental (game), for sure.”

Over the last nine games, Giddey is shooting 52.7 percent from the floor, raising his season percentage to 47.9 after shooting just under 42 percent as a rookie.

“I used to settle for a lot of floaters in the midrange, a lot of tough stuff over the top of people, but now I’m just trying to understand my body,” Giddey said.

Giddey’s improvement has lifted the Thunder as a whole.

“Early in the year, I thought he was just trying to shoot over people, and now he’s taking space up,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “When he creates that kind of space at his size and strength, he’s getting stuff around the basket.”

The Thunder comes into Wednesday’s game on a three-game winning streak, with all three victories coming on the road. Oklahoma City has also won three consecutive home games.

Indiana comes into the game on a season-long, four-game losing streak.

Pacers center Myles Turner returned for Monday’s loss at Milwaukee after missing three games with back spasms.

Turner finished with 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting in 36 minutes.

“I’m at a point where there’s going to be some discomfort,” Turner said. “But I’d rather just play through it and get myself in a rhythm. I think movement is good for all of this type of stuff.”

While Turner is working his way back in, the Pacers remain without guard Tyrese Haliburton, who has missed the last three games with a sprained elbow and knee bruise. Haliburton figures to miss several more games.

The Pacers have struggled, especially late in games, without Haliburton.

“Without Tyrese, I feel like — and this is not a shot at me and Andrew (Nembhard) — we just don’t have a true closer,” Indiana’s T.J. McConnell said. “Someone to kind of slow us down and go get us a bucket or get an assist. I’m not saying me and Andrew aren’t capable of that, but Tyrese does that at a high level.”

During the recent stretch without Haliburton, Indiana has allowed 125 points per game and is averaging 15.3 turnovers per game.

The Pacers have been outscored by an average of 8.3 points in the fourth quarter of the three games without Haliburton.

Wednesday’s meeting is the first of two between the teams this season. The Pacers have won three consecutive games in Oklahoma City.

–Field Level Media