San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City ThunderAT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
December 21, 2013, 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
The San Antonio Spurs begin a three game home-stand tonight against the formidable Oklahoma City Thunder. The Spurs return from a successful Western Conference road trip in which they went 3-1, winning their most recent game against Golden State without the Big 3 on a Tiago Splitter tip-in. Unlike last year's infamous regular season game against Miami, the Spurs prevailed against the Warriors thanks to a career high 28 points from Marco Belinelli and season high 21 points from Kawhi Leonard. Duncan and Ginobili should play tonight against the Thunder while Parker's return from a shin contusion remains questionable.
Winners of their last eight games by an average of over 14 points, OKC arrives with a fully healthy squad that has the NBA's best record of 21-5. Point guard Russell Westbrook, fully recovered from last season's knee surgery, is playing some of the best ball of his career. He's averaging over a point more per game over his 19.9 ppg career average. Kevin Durant, meanwhile, leads not only the Thunder but the entire league in scoring with an average of 28.7 points per game. Since starting the season 5-3, the Thunder have gone 16-1, losing only in a SEGABABA to Portland on December 4th. One of their wins was a November 27th home victory over San Antonio that ended the Spurs' 11-game win streak. In it, the good guys shot only 39.1%, including a lousy 7 of 27 from the three point line.
Of the Spurs' five losses, all have come at the hands of the NBA's upper echelon; Portland, OKC and the Clippers on the road and Indiana and Houston at home. Their best win so far was against the 14-10 Phoenix Suns. So with both OKC and the Rockets returning for round two during the holiday stretch, San Antonio will have the opportunity to earn some quality wins. To do so, particularly against the Thunder, the Spurs need to shoot the three ball well. The five losses reveal that the team's shooting about three percentage points less than their season average in defeat. It's not a huge deal, but when factoring in the raw number of missed treys: 20 against OKC, 17 against Houston and 12 against LAC, a troubling pattern emerges. The Spurs gave away too many scoring opportunities to win. Furthermore, three point misses typically lead to easy transition buckets for the opposition which helps explain the almost 15 point difference in points allowed over the season average.
Whether or not Parker plays may go a long way in determining the winner of this game. Without him, Ginobili will need to go to the rim more often to keep OKC's defenders honest and Duncan will need his mid-range jumper to really sing if the Spurs are to have a shot at this one. Mostly though, as in many big time matchups, it's the role players that will make the difference. In the first game, Reggie Jackson matched his career high with 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 11. If the Spurs want to end the Thunder's 8-game win streak, like in the win over Golden State, more than just the usual suspects will have to step up.
Thunder perspective can be found here: Welcome to Loud City
Game Prediction: Hard to predict a game with Parker's status unknown. If pushed though, I'll say the Spurs win either way, 102 to 94 with Belinelli and Green both stepping up their jump shots to help keep the Thunder out of transition.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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