After dropping a game in which they gave up 38 4th quarter points, blowing an 8-point lead in the process, the Spurs are back home and searching for answers. They will hope to find some against a new-look Oklahoma City Thunder led by Spurs-killer Chris Paul and breakout guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
After blowing up their roster by trading both Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the offseason, OKC looks anything but a title contender, let alone a playoff team out West. However, they come into this match — after a gutsy 102-94 win over the Orlando Magic and with a 99.4 Defensive Rating — good for 3rd in the first 10-game stretch of the season. OKC is going to make San Antonio work for everything it gets tonight and will require a 48-minute effort from the good guys if they want to get to 5-3 on the season.
Oklahoma City Thunder (3-4) vs San Antonio Spurs (4-3)
November 7, 2019 | 7:30 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Thunder Injuries: Andre Roberson (knee — OUT), Mike Muscala (hand — day-to-day)
Keys to the Game
- Limit the OKC backcourt - Paul might be in the back-9 of his career, but he’s routinely had big games against San Antonio throughout his time in the league and he must always be accounted for. The 15-year vet is currently averaging nearly 16 points a game while shooting 45.5% from beyond the arc, which would be a career-high if he is able to sustain it. He can still score the basketball and run an offense when needed.
However, the big story for OKC has been Gilgeous-Alexander. The centerpiece for the Thunder in the Paul George trade, the sophomore guard is averaging 22 points a game on a slash line of 48/41/70 on the young season. In a piece for Bleacher Report looking at the most surprising player starts to the season, Zach Buckley had this to say about the young guard:
Although Gilgeous-Alexander is taking almost twice as many shots as he did last season, his field-goal percentage hasn’t dropped too precipitously (from 47.6 to 46.1). Meanwhile, his three-point conversion rate is slightly up (from 36.7 to 37.9) even though he has nearly tripled his nightly attempts. He has already matched last season’s total with five games of seven-plus rebounds, too.
The Spurs were just carved up by Trae Young on Tuesday night. They’ll have to bring it tonight to avoid a similar fate at the hands of both another young guard and a wily veteran that has given them problems for years.
- The Spurs need an aggressive LaMarcus Aldridge in more ways than you might think - Aldridge has struggled to bring out the aggression the last couple games. He has failed to score more than 15 points in 4 of his last 5 games, the lone exception being a 22-point performance against what is shaping up to be a bad Warriors team.
While the Spurs certainly need Aldridge to score points while they try to get new guys acclimated and settled into new roles, he’s been incredibly pedestrian rebounding the basketball as well. After averaging 9 rebounds a game (3.1 offensive) last season, he’s collecting just 6.7 this year, failing to pull down double-digit rebounds in a single game so far. His best rebounding performances have come in the games where he’s scored at least 20, all of them (unsurprisingly) Spurs’ wins. He will have his hands full tonight with Thunder center Steven Adams, but a renewed effort on the glass could spark his scoring as well.
- How’s the glute, Derrick? - White injured his glute in a loss to the Lakers, and though he played through it against the Hawks, it clearly limited some of his effectiveness and was also a cause for concern for head coach Gregg Popovich, who kept White in for just 18 minutes. With a tough defensive match-up tonight against the OKC backcourt, the Spurs could use all the help they can get. If he seems spry and effective early on, it can only bode well for San Antonio.
Vegas odds: Spurs -4.5, O/U 215
Prediction: Spurs by 7
For the Thunder fans’ perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.
With Tony Parker Day approaching, 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.