Spurs (59-16, 29-8 road) vs. Thunder (54-19, 31-7 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.2 (7th), Spurs – 110.8 (5th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (5th), Spurs – 101.3 (3rd)
Pace: Thunder – 95.6 (9th), Spurs – 94.9 (11th)
So this is a big game. Well, potentially. Both teams could rest players taking what would be the showdown of the week to a preseason game that counts. The Spurs are playing a back-to-back and their fifth game in seven days, while the Thunder have two starters out, could be missing their sixth man, and might not have Russell Westbrook.
Assuming everyone is available though, oh boy. The Thunder are 3-0 against the Spurs this season, and have won the games in a dominant manner. It’s clear the Thunder present a unique matchup issue for Gregg Popovich because of their athleticism, length and depth, along with the fact Kevin Durant is an effing nightmare. You can’t scheme Durant in the way you might be able to with LeBron. You can’t back off and zone him. You have to check him straight up and hope Kawhi Leonard can do the job.
Regardless of who plays, though, it’s a big game. Because this is the Thunder’s last ditch shot at pushing for the No. 1 seed. They’re already three games behind in the loss column and Hollinger’s playoff odds only give OKC a 2.1 percent chance of getting the No. 1. IN FACT, Hollinger’s odds project OKC and the Clippers finishing with the same record. So not just is this game big on closing any potential gap on the Spurs, but it’s big as far as holding off the Clippers too.
It’s just a big game, period. Let’s just hope it stays big and everyone plays.
Three Big Things
1. Who plays? Obviously the biggest factor to tonight. Pop may rest all of, or some of his starting five and with this being a back-to-back, Westbrook may sit. Reggie Jackson looks likely to return, but if he’s not available, there’s no chance Westbrook sits because that would mean Derek Fisher is the starting point guard. We’ll know who’s in and who’s out about an hour and a half before tipoff and at that moment this pregame primer will become extremely dated, but until then, it’s the primary storyline.
2. Perimeter probs. The Spurs move the ball ridiculously well — they had 335 passes last night, 100 more than the Warriors — which could create an issue for the Thunder, who have notoriously struggled defending the 3-point line lately. The Spurs break you down with plenty of drive-and-kick action, which means the Thunder will have to help, recover and rotate all game long.
3. Reggie. He’s been a total Spurs killer in the three games so far — 23.6 points on 66.7 percent shooting (30-45). The Spurs haven’t been able to find an answer to Jackson off and on the ball as an attacking option. If Westbrook plays, that creates a ton of matchup issues for San Antonio trying to combat two perimeter attackers, along with Durant who has always killed them.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go I Hope Everyone Plays.