Spurs (56-19, 23-14 road) vs. Thunder (54-20, 32-5 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 112.3 (2nd), Spurs– 109.2 (7th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.6 (5th), Spurs – 101.3 (3rd)
Pace: Thunder – 93.6 (8th), Spurs – 94.0 (7th)
View from the enemy: 48 Minutes of Hell
So, big game here.
What’s on the line is potentially the top seed in the West, with the Spurs and Thunder separated by a game in the loss column. A win for San Antonio gives them the season series tiebreaker, along with another game up in the loss column, and will make it extremely challenging for the Thunder to make up ground for No. 1.
But for the Thunder, there’s potentially something bigger on the line here. A win could restore some faith and make everyone feel a lot better with the playoffs approaching. A loss just adds to the narrative that the Thunder can’t beat the best teams.
Some kind of feel this game means more to the Thunder because the Spurs are experienced and might not value home court as much. Here’s the thing about that though: I think the Spurs care. They’ve lost four straight in OKC, including three in a row during the Western finals. The series turned around in Game 3 with a blowout. I think the Spurs fear Loud City and definitely don’t want to face two opening games there in the West finals. The Peake has been a house of horrors for them lately, and they likely want to avoid it as much as possible.
San Antonio coming in: Beat the Magic last night.
Four Big Things
1. Splitter. Perk can defend Tim Duncan, or at least has done solid work on him in the past. Where OKC got exposed last game against the Spurs was with their other big as Tiago Splitter torched the Thunder. Serge Ibaka couldn’t handle him, nor did Nick Collison. Someone is going to have to play big there tonight, otherwise it creates problems with two inside threats.
2. 3-point line. The Spurs are most dangerous when they hit from outside. It opens up everything. They love to stick Duncan in the high post and run pick-and-roll off of him with shooters in each corner for Tony Parker to kick to. When those drop, it opens up everything else and will make a defense have to work so much harder. The Spurs sort of play outside in, and when it’s working, it’s a handful.
3. Bench. The Thunder bench doesn’t have to outproduce San Antonio’s. It just needs to hold the line. Keep OKC in the game. No big 12-2 runs from the Spurs’ second unit.
4. Bonus thing: Start fast. I anticipate a lively OKC crowd tonight, but here’s the thing: Atmosphere is often a two-way street. It takes good basketball, exciting plays and fun runs for the crowd to open up. Dig yourself in a hole like the Miami game and it’s hard to find that energy. The Thunder need a strong first quarter to get things going.
Tip at 8:30 CT. Go First Place.