The San Antonio Spurs are coming off a good week, and it all started last Saturday when they defeated the Golden State Warriors, 87-79. That victory, showing everyone that they have the ability to disrupt the Warriors’ offense, has opened some eyes to San Antonio’s extraordinary season.
The Spurs are 35-0 at home which is an incredible record, and are only three games behind the Warriors. The Oklahoma City Thunder hosts the Spurs tomorrow night, who will be playing for the third time in four nights. Oklahoma City, if they play well they can become a contender again in the Western Conference, and that could get kick-started with a win against San Antonio on Saturday night.
The Spurs will have a tough test against the Thunder because they are playing really effectively, and have put the post break offensive struggles behind them. The Thunder will play host to the Spurs at Chesapeake Energy Arena and will want to dominate the visitor.
Thunder’s point guard Russell Westbrook is basically a triple-double machine. In their five matchups since their 93-85 loss to San Antonio te last time they met, on March 12, the Thunder averaged 119.0 points per game. Westbrook since has had triple-doubles with averages of 19.2 points, 12.0 assists and 10.8 rebounds. Westbrook was able to solve the Spurs defense and get 33 points on 12 of 23 shooting, and 10 assists in Oklahoma City’s home win.
The Spurs are ready for the test. Last time they met, the Spurs’ top-ranked defense clamped down, and held OKC to 38.3 percent shooting and 11.1 percent from the 3 point line. Strangely enough, the last game against they played San Antonio was the Thunder’s lowest point total of their season so far.
The Spurs will not be fresh, they’ll be playing their fifth game in a week span so the Thunder if they’re smart, can ware them down. They will have the edge in this game since they are playing well and will want to take advantage of that scheduling. They would be fools not to.
As good as many think the Spurs are, they have been vulnerable to the league’s best teams, like the Warriors. They’ve lost to the Cavaliers, the Thunder, and the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers. Even though more than beating the Warriors last Saturday, the Warriors defeated themselves rather than be beaten by superior talent. The Spurs have been easier to crack for other top teams.
That’s a vulnerability that will spur on the Thunder, who will probably face the Spurs in the second round of this postseason. Oklahoma City still has two more regular-season games against San Antonio, and the one win this Saturday could give the Thunder a shot in the arm, a lift the team desperately needs.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are playing together for a seventh season. They have had success when they reached the NBA Finals in 2012, but since they have not returned to the finals, since James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets that season. Since, they have not achieved greatness, and their current roster has not been as strong as previous ones. The Thunder have 22 losses under their belts, and are not as great as their counterparts in the Western Conference.
Durant will be a free agent this summer, and how the Thunder plays this post-season will probably determine whether he decides to stay on in Oklahoma City. If they do not at least put up a good fight, he will probably take his talents elsewhere.
The Thunder have been inconsistent so far and are 8-8 since the All-Star break. Their trend has been falling apart in the fourth quarter of close games. When they lost at home to the mediocre Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 11, was probably the lowest point of their season. In that poor performance they turned the ball over 24 times and lost on a last-second 3-pointer.
It might have been a turning point too. Since, the Thunder have won four of their five games, losing only, ironically to the Spurs in San Antonio. Against some good teams, they have been focused, like against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Indiana Pacers.
Critics are hoping that the Thunder’s rookie head coach, Billy Donovan, would be able to change the way that Oklahoma City plays. They need to rely more on ball movement and not just on its superstars. Many think he has failed. The Thunder are still a poor passing team, and too dependent on Durant and Westbrook’s talent.
But lucky for the Thunder, those two players are superstar enough to shoulder the whole load of team. But that won’t fly for the playoffs. If Donovan can make the bench contribute more and keep the superstars are dialed in, then the Thunder can probably beat any team in the league, even the Spurs. But that is probably not going to happen as early as tomorrow night. Right now, this is not a team that can stay focused enough in a seven-game series, and that question will be answered because the postseason is less than a month away.
Our Pick: Spurs over Thunder, 107-98