Perhaps the biggest game of the season for the Oklahoma City Thunder takes place tomorrow – April 3 – as they take on the Conference leading San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are the hottest team in basketball right now, winners of 18 straight games (and looking to extend that against the Golden State Warriors today) and they are peaking at the right time. The Thunder on the other hand have had a number of setbacks since the All Star break, but seem to be getting things back on track.
Reggie Jackson, who has been somewhat of a thorn in the Spurs side this season has been sidelined with a back strain, while the Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins are still watching all the action from the sidelines. Russell Westbrook has been able to get some good playing time while on minute restrictions and is slowly getting back to the level we have come to expect from him. When the Thunder take the floor tomorrow night in this blockbuster clash, they won’t be at full strength, but they will need a full performance to get a win and stay in touch for the #1 seed.
The good news for the Thunder is that Kevin Durant has not cooled off. He had another red-hot month in March being named the Western Conference Player of the Month after averaging 34.5ppg and OKC will need that kind of output from their superstar. The Spurs didn’t have Kawhi Leonard in their last match up and they will be hoping that their “good luck charm” (the Spurs winning streak coincided with the return of Leonard from injury) will enable the Spurs to snatch a regular season win against the Thunder and increase their lead at the top of the conference.
If the Oklahoma City Thunder are serious about winning a championship, they know they will have to find a way to defeat the Spurs just to have another crack at it. They will take a number of positives from the previous regular season matchups (leading the season series 3-0) and the fact they were able to defeat the Spurs in 2012 on their way to their first NBA Finals appearance (the Thunder had the #2 seed that year also). However, you are only as good as your last game and a lot has changed since these teams last squared off.
While Spurs Head Coach Greg Poppovich has been known to manage his players – especially in big games and on the second night of a back to back – the Thunder have to prepare as though everyone is playing. The Spurs won’t be resting anyone in the playoffs. If the Thunder want to send a statement and sweep the regular season series, it will take a full team effort – and a little help from a sold out and loud Chesapeake Arena.
Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder