Coming in off of a victory against one of the Western Conference’s best teams, the Spurs enter Oklahoma City for the final game of the year’s biggest road trip, sporting only their second road game win streak of the season. In a match-up that could have a wide array of postseason implications, this is a particularly critical contest for San Antonio if they are to entertain any hopes of extending their lengthy playoff streak to twenty-three straight seasons.
If the last three contests against the Thunder are to serve as any sort of indication, it will almost certainly be a tense and closely contested struggle. Though the Spurs hold the series lead at 2-1, all three games have been decided by a margin of nine points or less. And in spite of the obvious difference in records, both teams have appeared to be evenly matched.
This is a classic defense vs. offense match-up, with the Spurs sporting a top ten offense, and the Thunder sitting at 11th in defensive rating and both teams leaning to towards opposite ends in regards to overall pace. For once it’s the Spurs checking in the top half of the league in that statistical arena, with Oklahoma City taking their place as the 8th slowest team in the league, and it’s anyone’s guess who will win out in the final regular season match-up for these old rivals.
Still bearing the scars of the 2012 Western Conference Finals against the Thunder, and the 7-game 1st round exit in 2014 against Chris Paul’s ‘Lob City’ Clippers, it’s hard for me to remain unbiased after all these years. Neither of these teams are “now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven”, but there’s still some honor to be had in the striving. However, I for one, hope it goes down like the sacking of Troy. Burn it to the ground lads.
San Antonio Spurs (24-31) at Oklahoma City Thunder (34-22)
February 23, 2020 | 6:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Thunder Injuries: Andre Roberson (Out - Knee), Deonte Burton (Day to Day - Illness), Dennis Schroder (Day to Day - Ankle)
What to watch for:
- Dejounte Murray: In case you haven’t noticed, Murray has been on a tear as of late. Sporting a 25-2 turnover ratio in his last four games, and just shy of a 11:1 turnover ratio for the Rodeo Road Trip, Dejounte Murray appears to be putting it all together at once, as his defensive play and mid-range shot have been sparkling as well. Best of all, Murray’s season high of 25 points came in San Antonio’s last game against the Thunder just before the All-Star Break. Considering the quality of Oklahoma City’s guard rotation, Murray’s play in this one will once again be the key for San Antonio.
- San Antonio’s Forwards: Outside of containing Chris Paul, this will be a major deciding factor in this one. With the departure of DeMarre Carroll, San Antonio’s forward rotation is more of a question mark than ever. This has been the case since the departures of Kyle Anderson and a certain crustacean-handed blaggard, but now in particular as some combination of Trey Lyles, Rudy Gay, Lonnie Walker IV, DeMar DeRozan, and Marco Belinelli will be used to try and counter an offensively lethal Danilo Gallinari.
Gay and Lyles may not be quick enough to keep up with the shifty Italian, and Walker, DeRozan, and Belinelli all lack size to begin with, and that’s without taking into consideration that Gallinari is 6’10”. Gallinari was allowed to do too entirely too much damage in the Thunder’s lone win. If he’s allowed to run wild again, this contest will probably go sideways for the Spurs.
- Winning The Front-court Battle: This continues to be a big deal in most games for San Antonio, considering the inconsistency of the contributions from the forward positions, but this is especially the case against a team with a high quality center in Steven Adams, and the eternal threat of Paul’s lobs and passes. With LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl, this is one area where the Spurs frequently have the advantage, but they likely won’t win this one without coming out ahead on the glass and in the paint.
For the Thunders’ fans’ perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.
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.