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Game preview: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

The Spurs will travel to Oklahoma City to play the second game of a back-to-back.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The schedule has not been kind to the Spurs recently, as they went into their holiday break with a back-to-back and came back to another two games on two nights. After beating the Jazz on Monday, the Thunder awaits in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, hoping to return to victory after losing to the Pelicans following a three-game winning streak.

The Thunder are in a strange position this season. They were clearly hoping to take a leap organically by adding ellite prospect Chet Holgrem, but an injury in preseason derailed those plans and left emerging superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to lead a group of unheralded role players. So far OKC has had its ups and downs, beating some good teams and losing to some mediocre ones. They are one good streak away from firmly entering play-in territory and a bad one from getting near the basement in the West. Either outcome seems possible.

The Spurs, meanwhile, seem destined to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season but have slowly been getting healthier after suffering numerous injuries and have shown that at their best they can surprise even elite opponents. They are young, so closing games remains an issue, and they are lacking an SGA-level player, but when they play with focus and energy, they can be a problem for anyone, as the Jazz found out on Monday. It will be interesting to see if San Antonio can even out the season series after suffering a defeat against the Thunder earlier on.

San Antonio Spurs (11-22) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (14-19)

December 27, 2022 | 7:00 PM CT

Watch: CW35 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries (updated): Dominick Barlow (Out — G League), Blake Wesley (Out — G League), Keldon Johnson (Back — Questionable), Doug McDermott (Knee — Questionable)

Thunder Injuries: Chet Holgrem (Foot — Out), Ousmane Dieng (Wrist — Out), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Ankle — Out), Jaylin Williams (Out — G League)

What to watch for:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, NBA star. SGA ranks third in the league in points per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor. He takes the fourth most free throws per game in the NBA and makes them at a 92 percent clip. Despite sharing ball-handling duties with Josh Giddey he averages almost six assists and is among the league leaders in steals per game and leads all guards in blocks per game. Gilgeous-Alexander has been a great player for a while, but he has been doing it all this season. He missed the late-November matchup with the Spurs but should be available on Tuesday, and he’s going to be a handful.

The Thunder, strong at home. Despite having a negative record overall, the Thunder have won more than they have lost in Oklahoma City. They have beaten the Clippers and Trail Blazers twice and the Grizzlies and Mavericks once at the Paycom Center, so they clearly know how to take care of things at home. The Spurs have been bad at the AT&T Center but they are even worse on the road, so it might be optimistic to hope for a win.

The Spurs have size on their side. One of the biggest weaknesses of the Thunder is their lack of a quality center. They essentially play a lot of big forwards but no real big man for long stretches, which could give Jakob Poeltl and Zach Collins the opportunity to do some damage inside on offense for the second game in a row. The tradeoff is that San Antonio’s bigs might need to chase quicker players on the other end, but if they can handle that on the Spurs’ switch-heavy system, the centers could make a big impact for the Silver and Black.

For the Thunder fan’s perspective, please visit Welcome to Loud City.

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