Talent is a heck of a trump card. It’s why many saw the Oklahoma City Thunder as one of the few viable challengers to the Warriors’ cake walk to another title as soon as they managed to add Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to a team that already featured the incumbent Most Valuable Player.
14 games in, it’s been a mixed bag with the Thunder. They’ve followed a four-game losing streak with three straight wins, but are still looking to understand what lineups work and find an offensive balance with their three stars. And that’s OK this early in the season.
On nights like tonight, balance may not matter — that’s the beauty of bringing some elite players together and letting them figure things out. One supernova performance from Russell Westbrook or one of his co-stars could transcend everything.
But the Thunder aren’t scoring many points right now (18th in offensive rating), and they’re not bothered about pushing the pace (17th in possessions per game) either, making this a game script that should be in the Spurs’ favor. That, combined with San Antonio’s edge in depth, should bode well for a contest that may be decided in the 90s.
San Antonio Spurs (9-6) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (7-7)
November 17, 2017 I 7:00 PM CDT
Watch: ESPN, FSSW
Spurs injuries: Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps), Tony Parker (quadriceps), Derrick White (fractured right wrist)
Thunder injuries: Steven Adams (calf)
Early in the season, it’s the Thunder defense that’s shined much brighter than its offense, a surprise given the strengths of two of its three stars are most definitely on the other end. (It’s worth noting that the Thunder’s defensive rating, like SA’s, has benefited from multiple matchups against the absolutely awful Chicago Bulls.)
OKC’s defense ranks behind only the Celtics early on, relying on length and switchability to give opponents trouble. They’re also tops in the league in steals per game, a factor that will test a San Antonio offense that’s had trouble taking care of the ball at times. The Thunder are not a team you want to give many scoring opportunities in the open floor.
Steven Adams’ calf
Like the Spurs, the Thunder are thin in the frontcourt, and Adams leaves a huge void behind. His strength and activity often give the Spurs trouble, and his absence will hurt on both ends of the floor.
Spurs on the offensive glass
If Adams is out, one of the Thunder’s greatest weaknesses — the defensive glass — becomes an even bigger issue. San Antonio’s been terrific at making the most use of its size (7th in offensive rebound rate) and should be able to generate a good amount of second chances tonight.
Vegas Odds: Spurs by 2.5.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 5.
For the Thunder fan’s perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.
As always, Tony must dominate Fisher.
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