Coach Gregg Popovich didn’t sugarcoat his feelings on the Spurs’ Tuesday loss in DC:
“I thought it was a really poor example of mental toughness in the sense of no real discipline and no real effort.”
The team’s narrow defeat on Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, coupled with Tuesday night’s loss to Washington, relegated the Spurs into a 5th place tie with New Orleans, half a game ahead of Utah and one up on Minnesota. The knee injury to Western Conference Player of the Week near the end of the first half certainly placed the Spurs in a tough spot, but so did missing 15 of 33 free throws.
Now they face the Thunder for the fourth and final time in the regular season, with the two teams divided by just one game in the very tight Western Conference Playoff race. OKC currently clings to 4th place by a game after losing to Portland at home on Sunday 108-105.
The good: the Spurs have been considerably better at home than on the road this season. The bad: with LaMarcus Aldridge’s status up in the air heading into this one, it may not matter.
San Antonio Spurs (43-32) vs. Oklahoma Thunder (44-31)
March 29, 2018 | 7:00 pm
Watch: TNT, Listen: WOAI 1200
Spurs injuries: LaMarcus Aldridge (knee) GTD, Kawhi Leonard (quad) out
Thunder injuries: Andre Roberson (knee) out for season
The Spurs can even the season series at two wins a piece with a win at home against the Thunder. While Aldridge scored 26 in the November 17th 104-101 home win, he was held to 11 in the March 10th road defeat. He sat out the December 3rd 90-87 Thunder win in OKC. Presently averaging 26.2 points per game however, four points more than in the fall, LA’s presence means everything to the offensively challenged Spurs -- particularly when factoring in a defense which has not been quite as resolute as earlier in the season. If he’s out, the Spurs must up their perimeter game to compete.
Thunder or light drizzle?
The Thunder’s “big three”, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, have all scored below their respective season average in the three games against the Spurs this season. Still, the team that defeated the Spurs by 10 in March is vastly improved over the one that split the two close games earlier in the year. Additionally, while Steve Adams’ contributions are not a surprise, swingman Corey Brewer, signed in early March after being waived by the Lakers, is 5th on the team in scoring with 10.5 points per game. On March 10th, his 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting kept the Spurs at bay as they sought to comeback. Though the Thunder’s better play can be attributed to improved chemistry as well as Brewer’s acquisition, their amplified intensity is the primary distinguishing factor. Thus, regardless of whether Aldridge plays, the Spurs need to match OKC’s to prevail in this very key game.
Vegas prediction: Thunder by 1.5.
Game prediction: With LA, Spurs by 4; Without LA, Thunder by 9.
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As always Tony must dominate Fisher.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed