Spurs (57-17, 28-9 road) vs. Thunder (43-31, 27-10 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 – 105.2 (16th), Spurs – 109.4 (7th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.2 (9th), Spurs – 100.9 (1st)
Hidden behind the heroics from Russell Westbrook the last two games is the fact the Oklahoma City Thunder have not played very well. In reality, the Thunder haven’t played very well for the past three games, but the Houston game actually went as planned for playing so badly. The one common theme was that all three were road games. And that, in of itself, will be a problem for this team moving forward as they navigate towards the playoffs. With the likelihood of catching up to Utah and the 4th seed dwindling with every game played, the Thunder have to face the reality that they will begin the upcoming playoffs on the road.
Among current Western Conference playoffs teams, to include 9-seeded Denver, the Thunder have the biggest disparity between home and road records. And that would be fine if the Thunder were planning to spend the majority of their April through June in the friendly confines of the ‘Peake. But that is not their reality for this season. If the Thunder want to advance in this year’s playoffs, they will have to win at least one, and likely two, games away from Oklahoma City to get that accomplished.
The old adage, “the bench doesn’t travel”, holds true for most teams. The problem for the Thunder is that adage is holding true for mostly everyone on the team not named Russell Westbrook. In the previous two games, Westbrook shot 51% on 70 shots! The rest of the team shot 41% on 107 shots. It’s almost a wonder as to how Westbrook is able to accumulate 10+ assists on a nightly basis. If the Thunder are to advance at all in the playoffs, the rest of the team is going to have to step their game up. Especially with the singular focus of whatever team the Thunder faces in the playoffs being not to allow Westbrook do to them what he has done to his previous two opponents.
Season Series Summary
This is the third and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Spurs. The two teams have split their previous two meetings, with the W going to home team in each case.
Three Big Things
1. Twin Towers
The Spurs struggle with the “twin towers” line-up of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. Offensive rebounds are swallowed up by the duo and points are hard to come by in the paint with the two in the game. The Spurs big men are not that physical and the Thunder should be able to take advantage of this.
2. Disrupt the shooters
The Spurs aren’t heavy on guards who can get into the paint at will. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili still have flashes from time to time, but Father Time can be quite relentless on guards and wings. The Thunder shouldn’t over help against this team as the Spurs will make a team pay for over helping. The Spurs lead the league in 3-point percentage at 39.1% and in corner 3-point percentage at 43.4%. Additionally, the Spurs are 5th in the league at 29.9 catch and shoot points per game. Get the shooters out of rhythm and you give yourself a chance against the Spurs.
Man, the entire world is running out of superlatives for this guy. He just has that it; that basketball je ne sais quoi. The inexplicable will and confidence to look at the mountain in front of him and tell it to move. And the mountain obliging, while sheepishly apologizing and cowering in fear.
Opposing fans are starting to realize they are witnessing basketball history. Many of us in the internet generation never got to see Oscar Robertson or Wilt Chamberlain play. But we always knew those names reverberated with the all-time numbers. And now, Russell Westbrook is taking a SWAT team ram to that proverbial door in order to make his name synonymous with the all-time greats. In 30 years, our children and grandchildren will be referencing Westbrook’s 16-17 season whenever some young whipper-snapper shows up on the scene throwing out triple-doubles like Mario throws out fire balls (but then you’d have to also explain to them who the hell Mario was and why he was Super).