Current Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (54-19), San Antonio Spurs (59-16)
Last time they met: Oklahoma City Thunder (111) defeated San Antonio Spurs (105). Thunder leads regular season series 3-0.
What a blockbuster match up we have on our hands here. The two best teams in the West and arguably in the entire league, going head to head against each other leading into the playoffs and with the race for the #1 seed closing quickly. The San Antonio Spurs are the form team of the competition. They have won their last 19 games straight and have won by quite a margin (averaging winning margin of over 16 points) but tonight might be their toughest test – Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Arena.
The Thunder have had the Spurs number all season long. They have won all 3 previous encounters but this one will be a lot different. The Spurs have welcomed Kawhi Leonard back into their lineup and they haven’t missed a step since. He is the perfect matchup for Kevin Durant who the Spurs will be looking to slow down. Russell Westbrook will be a game time decision, either sitting out this one or the following night against the Houston Rockets as the Thunder manage his minutes heading into the post season.
Kevin Durant vs Kawhi Leonard
The front-runner for the Most Valuable Player Award against arguably the Spurs most valuable player, this is a sensational matchup. Durant has been instrumental in the success of the Thunder this year, raising his all around game and scoring to accommodate the loss of Westbrook. Leonard missed a few weeks through injury but has shown no ill effects upon his return to the lineup. Leonard is one defender who has the strength and size to make Durant shoot over him and he loves to be physical. Durant is going to have to work extremely hard for everything he gets in this one.
Russell Westbrook vs Tony Parker
At the time of writing, Westbrook was scheduled to sit out either this game or the next game against Houston. Westbrook has yet to play against the Spurs this season due to injury while Reggie Jackson has really caused the Spurs all sorts of headaches. Whether Russ or Reggie (or both) take the court, the premise remains the same. Push the ball in transition, don’t allow open three’s or Tony Parker to get into the lane and don’t turn the ball over. Parker can carve a team up when given half a chance, and if the Thunder want a win, they need to stop him.
Serge Ibaka vs Tim Duncan
Most likely, the job on Tim Duncan will be done via commission. The Thunder will enlist the help of not only Serge Ibaka, but also Steven Adams, Nick Collison and anyone else who has the strength and skill to match one of the best power forwards of all time. Tim Duncan doesn’t seem to age and has been turning the clock back during this win streak and this season as a whole. He is a proven game winner who makes the right plays – the Thunder will need to pay very close attention.
Perhaps this is just a regular season game – or it might be for bragging rights. We will soon know when the lineups are announced. Has Popp rested anyone? Will Brooks play Westbrook against the Spurs for the first time this season? Tough game to call and the result will come down to just who can execute more effectively. Expect a really tight contest going down to the wire. The Spurs streak has to end at some point though and a well-rested Thunder unit at home might just be able to squeeze past the Spurs who are on their second night of a back to back and on the road.Thunder 102, Spurs 99.