Spurs (50-13, 27-7 road) vs. Thunder (35-29, 23-9 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.4 (20th), Spurs – 109.8 (5th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.5 (12th), Spurs – 100.7 (1st)
There usually aren’t must win games in March. There is still a quarter of the season left (15+ games), which gives a team enough time to make whatever realistic moves a team wants to make to get up in the standings. But just for the feel of things, the Oklahoma City Thunder would want nothing more than to taste the sweet juice of victory again. They are currently on a 4-game losing streak, and face the toughest two teams in that 6 game run in the next two games (San Antonio and Utah).
The Thunder are securely in the 7th spot. For as bad as things have seemed lately, the Thunder still hold a 6-game lead over the 8th seeded Denver Nuggets, which makes them a near lock to hold on to at least the 7th spot. But this is the time of year when a team wants to be playing it’s best. And unfortunately, the Thunder have looked their worst in this recent four game skid. Their defense has been atrocious and their offense has been unbalanced (too much of Russell Westbrook, not enough of anyone else).
And while chemistry issues may have a little to do with it (three new rotation players on the team since the trade deadline), there seems to be something else amidst on the team. Maybe the team’s youth is finally starting to show its naivete. The Thunder’s roster features 5 rotation players that are 25 or younger, and have either never been to the playoffs or have never had to play a rotational role on a playoff team. When the pressure of the postseason starts to bear down on a young team, the manifestation of this pressure is usually shown through their play on the defensive end and on their dependence on more veteran players on the offensive end of the floor. Which is what we may be seeing with this current Thunder team.
Season Series Summary
This is the second of three meetings between the Thunder and Spurs. The Spurs won the first meeting by 14 in San Antonio.
Three Big Things
1. Spurs rested the wrong players
The Spurs rested Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge last night when they played against the Sacramento Kings in San Antonio. They will be available tonight. Instead, they will rest Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kyle Anderson in tonight’s game. Gee, Pop, thanks. At least, in the grand scheme of things, the Thunder are ahead of the Kings in the “we should rest our best players against this team” rankings.
2. Mid-range Defense
Without the services of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs will be lacking their two best paint attackers. Much of their attack tonight will be focused on Aldridge’s mid-range game and Leonard’s all-around attack. This should play more towards the Thunder’s defensive strengths of contesting jumpers instead of trying to stay in front of a penetrating guard.
3. A Full 48
The Thunder have gotten in the habit of starting games off well and then watching their leads dissipate as the game goes on (especially in the 2nd and 3rd quarters). While a lot of this can be blamed on the bench’s inability to control the flow of the game (some nights they can score, but not defend, while others they can defend, but struggle scoring), the momentum of the game doesn’t entirely change when the starters (read: Westbrook) get back in the game. During their four game skid, the Thunder were a +13 after the first quarter, outscoring their opponents 119-106. In the middle two quarters during that time span, the Thunder have been outscored 249-208. This is where they usually lose control of the game.