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Game 4 Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

Up 2-1, San Antonio has the opportunity to take command of the series with another win in Oklahoma City tonight.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio SpursOklahoma City Thunder

Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Date: 5/08/16, Time: 7:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

Thunder losses, whether by 30 or by four, invite a unique, hilarious brand of blowback that few teams can match. It's not the deluge of lowbrow hate that LeBron beckons, and it's not the schadenfreude lobbed at the Clippers, but it still piles on hard following night's like Game 3, when a 10-of-31 performance from Russell Westbrook may have pushed OKC one game closer to being short one superstar.

People may still debate who the real MVP is, but in spirit and temperament, the Thunder are Russell Westbrook: exciting, volatile, and -- perhaps -- too inherently flawed to reach the highest level.

So even though we can expect the point guard to, as he's said, come in to Game 4 with designs to get his teammates better involved and likely defer more to Durant, it's hard to imagine the Thunder hitting their best notes without his unrelenting unpredictability playing a key role.

Durant will need more shots though, with his teammates getting the ball in the spots he likes. Danny Green has been excellent at making the latter tough for him, battling KD on the post, and funneling him into help D when necessary. Double moves and some more inventive screening wouldn't hurt to free him up a bit more.

While the Thunder look to unleash KD and make better use of Westbrook, they might also want to look at the opposing point guard, whose 19 points (and 3-of-6 shooting from three) and five assists breathed some much-needed life into the Spurs attack, complementing Kawhi Leonard's superb play and making up for LaMarcus Aldridge's off night. Tony Parker came up with a number of huge buckets in Game 3, taking advantage of his counterpart's listless defense and the attention paid to Leonard and Aldridge.

I'd expect him to be a larger part of Billy Donovan's defensive scheme tonight but, even with a greater focus on Parker, a balanced Spurs attack should be able to exploit the Thunder's shaky rotations and attack with its combination of iso play and vintage artistry:

Opportunistic, more than beautiful, may be the most apt way to describe this iteration of the Spurs. They have the capacity to be pleasing to the eye, but not at the expense of efficiency, and they play with an awareness of each opportunity's fleeting nature in a way the Thunder don't. I'm leaning on that fundamental difference, even against a desperate OKC effort, pushing them to a win and 3-1 edge tonight.

Key to winning: The offensive efficiency should keep hanging around the level needed for a win as long as they bring the same effort and attention to detail on defense. That means continuing to deny Durant the ball, little guys like Tony and Patty nullifying size mismatches by getting their chest into their opponents, and more hard work in transition D and on the glass.

vs

San Antonio Spurs

(Playoffs record: 6-1)

Oklahoma City Thunder

(Playoffs record: 5-3)

May 8, 2016

Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

7:00 PM CDT

TV: TNT

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Russell Westbrook

Danny Green

SG

Andre Roberson

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Kevin Durant

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Serge Ibaka

Tim Duncan

C

Steven Adams

Game prediction: Spurs by 8.

For the Thunder fans' perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.

As always, PtR's Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. But if you're not able to log in here, you can try the Fanvana app which helps connect sports fans and was created by a fellow Spurs fan. Check out the free app on iOS or Android to discover other Spurs fans and join the live chatter for tonight's game. You can follow PtR's tweet stream directly on Fanvana as the game unfolds.