Current Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (32-10), San Antonio Spurs (32-9)
Last time they met: Oklahoma City Thunder (113) def. San Antonio Spurs (100)
As if last nights game wasn’t big enough, the Thunder now have to face the Western Conference leading San Antonio Spurs – in San Antonio. Although the Thunder have held their own against the Spurs in recent times, this game is not going to be easy. The Spurs are playing some terrific basketball and are leading the West for a reason. They have won seven of their past eight games and have overcome injury issues to key players by using their rotations and roster depth to perfection.
The Thunder are also dealing with a huge injury to Russell Westbrook, but Kevin Durant has elevated his game to incredible heights. Always a prolific and efficient scorer, even Durant hasn’t had a patch of games like this one. He has been on a tear and will be looking to back up last nights 46 point effort which he used to spark the Thunder in a come from behind win over the Portland Trailblazers.
Oklahoma City Thunder will take some comfort knowing that they have been able to beat the Spurs without Westbrook as they did in early December. Reggie Jackson came up big, and he is going to have to do so again if the Thunder are going to take the points in this one. Even if Tony Parker doesn’t play (his status is uncertain and could be a game time decision), the rest of the Spurs pick up the slack and are still dangerous.
Kevin Durant vs. Kawhai Leonard
Leonard will be asked to do what few have been able to so far this season – limit the effectiveness of Kevin Durant. These two players have had some very tough encounters with each of them holding their own at times. Kevin Durant is in some “other worldly” form right now though which makes the arduous task even more difficult. The Thunder are relying on a steady diet of Durant offense and playmaking, while the Spurs are relying on Leonard to shut him down.
Reggie Jackson vs Tony Parker (Cory Joseph / Patty Mills)
If Tony Parker is unable to suit up, then this match up becomes more interesting. The last time these two teams played, Reggie Jackson played a terrific game which ultimately got the Thunder across the line.He was huge in key moments of the game and played with a poise that enabled the young Thunder to stay at arms length against the Spurs. Jackson needs another game like that – pressuring the opposition guards and bigs by getting to the rim in bunches. The Spurs will rely on Joseph and Mills if Parker is not right and while their is a slight drop off, both guys can get the job done if Jackson isn’t careful.
Jeremy Lamb / Thabo Sefolosha vs Manu Ginobili
As stated, if Tony Parker doesn’t play, the Spurs look a little different. Manu Ginobili becomes the x-factor with his ball handling, shooting and ability to make tough plays. Thabo will get first crack at Ginobili and will need to curb his influence early. Ginobili is like a barometer for the Spurs and if he gets some early buckets and gets to the basket, the Thunder will find it very difficult. Jeremy Lamb is going to have to ensure their is no drop-off when he comes into the game and is going to have to keep the Spurs defense honest with some quality outside shooting as well as taking the ball to the hole and creating.
This time the game is played in San Antonio and the Thunder are on the second night of a back to back. They are coming off a tough game where they were behind for the majority of it before rallying to secure the W. The Spurs are in terrific form as their record over the past fortnight shows and will be looking to stamp their authority on the Western Conference and against the Thunder. Kevin Durant is always the key to the game for the Thunder and tonight he will need to be at his best and get some good support from Ibaka, Jackson and Lamb. The West’s best record is on the line here and I think the Thunder can reach out and take it. Thunder 99 – Spurs 95.
Who do you think takes the points in this one? Let us know in the comments below!