OKC Thunder (23-11, 10-5 road) at San Antonio Spurs (28-4, 18-2 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.8 (8th), Spurs – 112.5 (1st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 107.0 (17th), Spurs – 103.7 (9th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.1 (11th), Spurs – 93.1 (12th)
View from the enemy: 48 Minutes of Hell
Playing the best team in basketball New Year’s Day on the second of a back-to-back? Not. Easy. But you know what? I have a strangely good feeling about this game. No good or reasonable reason why, but I just feel like the Thunder’s playing better basketball lately and will be ready.
San Antonio coming in: The Spurs have won three straight and 13 of 14. Really, if you want to extend that, they’ve won 28 of 32. They last played Thursday in Dallas.
What killed Oklahoma City in the first meeting wasn’t Tim Duncan. It wasn’t Manu Ginobili. It really wasn’t Tony Parker or DeJuan Blair. It was Matt Bonner and his 6-6 performance from 3. The Spurs utilize the drive-and-kick as well as anyone and they’ve got the shooters to knock ‘em down. George Hill, Bonner, Gary Neal, Richard Jefferson — basically everybody on the freaking roster can shoot. I think even Gregg Popovich would knock down a corner 3 or two if someone threw him the ball.
Kevin Durant hasn’t ever really struggled with the Spurs to a great extent, but they always seem to hold in relative check. KD has never really had a huge opportunity to explode. Russell Westbrook will be key in providing a scoring lift as well as James Harden. With the way Harden’s been playing there’s reason to be encouraged. He needs a nice 15-18 points off the bench tonight for OKC for sure.
Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and company will have to do strong work on the glass to keep Blair, Duncan and the rest of the Spurs off the offensive boards to some degree. Second shots and extended possessions are one of the big ways San Antonio kills teams.
The Spurs didn’t lose at home in December and have won 18 of 20 overall there. This won’t be easy. But it’s a big opportunity to make a statement or at least get a small measure as to where the Thunder’s at. The first meeting was nip and tuck for three quarters before the Spurs cranked it up, much like the Mavericks game. Let’s hope we don’t see that happen a third time.
Tip at 7:30 CT. Go 2011 Thunder.