Preview 15 of 82: Thunder @ Spurs
Time: 7:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN / Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Oklahoma City Thunder sits at 7-7 after 14 games, and is in San Antonio tonight for a date with the 9-6 Spurs. San Antonio is still without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, while the Thunder will be at full strength with the return of big man Steven Adams. The game tips-off at 7 PM CT on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma.
Winners of three straight, the Thunder has been unpredictable in the early part of the season. The team boasts the second best defense in the NBA, surrendering just 97.1 points per contest. On the flip side, the Thunder offense is ranked 22nd at 103.1 points per game and has been prone to excessive bouts of stagnation. The Spurs have a top three defense of their own, so OKC will need to utilize ball movement and a complete four quarter effort to come away with a win.
The Spurs have performed admirably in the absence of Kawhi Leonard — riding a revitalized LaMarcus Aldridge to a winning record. The 32-year-old power forward is averaging 22 points and 8.3 rebounds through 15 games, and has historically performed very well against Oklahoma City. How Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder defend him is something to keep a keen eye on.
- Kawhi Leonard: Out — Quad
- Tony Parker: Out — Quad
- Derrick White: Out — Wrist
Spurs Starters: Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol
- Russell Westbrook has four triple-doubles this season, but hasn’t recorded one since October 31st against the Milwaukee Bucks. Tonight presents his next opportunity, and he’s notched three straight versus the Spurs.
- As mentioned above, the Thunder has the league’s second best defense — giving up just 97.1 points per contest. The Spurs are right behind OKC in third, surrendering 98.9.
- With both teams carrying an above-average defense, a basic ability to score the basketball will be paramount. The Spurs are 7-0 when reaching the 100-point plateau, with Oklahoma City sitting at 1-6 when they allow 100+ points.
- The Spurs are the seventh-best rebounding team in the NBA at 45.7 per game — including a third-best mark on the offensive glass, 11.4. The Thunder has struggled on the boards all season, so this is something to look out for. The return of Steven Adams should provide a boost.
- The Spurs are making 8.7 three-pointers per game, good for 25th in the NBA. As they take the 28th most (23.7), they still remain in the top 10 in terms of percentage at 37 percent.
- Rudy Gay has come off the bench and scored in double-figures in 10 of the Spurs’ 15 games. Oklahoma City has shown a vulnerability to opposing second units, so seeing Paul George staggered with the bench to match-up with Gay defensively seems like a fair bet.
- Alex Abrines is averaging 4.8 points per game over the last five games — and that includes a 14 point performance against the Clippers a week ago today. He’s shooting 41 percent from deep over the same span, and could provide a big boost to a winning effort if he can get shots to fall off the bench. The looks have been there, he just needs to knock them down.
- Even with Kawhi Leonard missing for the Spurs, picking up a win in San Antonio will be no easy task for OKC. The Thunder’s three-game winning streak has come against teams with a combined 9-28 record, so how much Russell Westbrook & Co. have improved will be put to the test in this one.
Danny Green discusses guarding the new-look Thunder. Via Spurs.