San Antonio Spurs (44-21, 21-12 road) vs. OKC Thunder (18-48, 13-20 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma HD (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Time: 7:00 CST
Offensive Rating: Thunder: 103.7 (28th), San Antonio: 108.4 (15th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder: 109.5 (20th), San Antonio: 104.0 (5th)
Pace: Thunder: 93.7 (8th), San Antonio: 88.7 (26th)
It’s the pupil versus the master. The understudy against the… study. The mentor and the protege. OKC has been said to be following the Spurs model to build a franchise and is off to a decent start building around a solid young nucleus. Now if we could only get Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili…
Hopefully the Thunder roster pays close attention to everything the Spurs do tonight – pre-game warmups, how they do their two-line layup drill, how they high-five – because if we’re going to copy the model, let’s do it right. Obviously something works for those guys because they’ve been the elite team in the league the last 10 years and just always seem to take care of business when they’re supposed to. They interchange parts but keep the core the same and just win. If we are going to plagiarize someone, we picked a good writer to copy.
The Spurs come in having won five of six and in their last 17 games, only four opponents have scored more than 100 points. That’s not a great sign seeing as OKC hasn’t topped the century mark in eight games. BUT, Oklahoma City has won three straight at home and is a pretty salty 10-6 at the Ford Center in 2009.
The last meeting was part of OKC’s “turnaround.” The Thunder lost 109-104 but was competitive in the fourth quarter, which was something that wasn’t the case for most of the team’s first 24 games. That two-game Texas road trip in December was pretty big for the Thunder in terms of getting an attitude of just staying with good teams and having a chance late in games. In that first game, Tony Parker schooled Russell Westbrook as Parker had 22 points and seven assists to Westbrook’s two and two in 19 minutes. Jeff Green had 33 and KD 28, but Duncan scored 20 and the role player for the Spurs did what they do.
But things have changed a bit for Westbrook. Though he turned it over eight times against Phoenix and seven against Denver last week, he is playing better. He’s creating more opportunities for his teammates and people are just going to have to deal with growing pains. But Parker is a good guy for Westbrook to watch. Both don’t have stellar jumpshots and do a lot of scoring in the paint. Parker creates a lot of opportunities for his teammates to score by getting in the lane and drawing defenders. And he’s also got a very hot wife. She’s quite a Spurs model to follow if I may say so myself (hi-OH!).
Tim Duncan is always a tough guard and though Jeff Green’s interior defense is improving, we’re talking about the greatest ever at that position. Uncle Jeff is going to need help and when help comes that leaves open looks for marksmen like Matt Bonner and Roger Mason Jr. to hurt you with. Plus add Parker’s drive-and-kick ability and it’s going to be tough to defend San Antonio.
But never count OKC out, especially at home. Kevin Durant is 40 points waiting to happen and Thabo Sefolosha can lock down on Mason Jr. The key is Westbrook playing within himself and limiting Parker’s scoring and passing opportunities. Duncan is going to be a handful for Green and Nick Collison. I love the Durant/Finley matchup in favor of OKC because Finley is a bit undersized and wants to primarily score from the perimeter and KD’s length can make that tough on him.
The Spurs do it with defense and recently OKC’s copied that pretty well. Thabo was a nice Bruce Bowen-type piece to the puzzle and it seems the team is getting serious about it. San Antonio’s one of the best defensive teams year-in and year-out in the league and they don’t just do it for seven game stretches. It’s got to be an attitude and a culture, and the Thunder’s trying to get there.
Maybe the student can surprise the teacher tonight. It’s Obi-wan versus Anakin, Jerry versus Bania, Steve Young versus Joe Montana.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Bania.