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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Can the Silver and Black take advantage of a lowly Western Conference opponent?

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Karl-Anthony Towns tossed around the San Antonio Spurs like a ragdoll in their previous outing at the AT&T Center, notching a career-high 60 points while carrying the Minnesota Timberwolves to victory. But the good guys will have a golden opportunity to bounce back from their pitiful defensive performance as they host a lottery-bound club on Wednesday night.

The Oklahoma City Thunder enter this game on a league-worst six-game losing streak. And they have virtually nothing to play for as they continue adding lottery balls to their collection for the 2022 NBA Draft. As if Mark Daigneault didn’t have enough on his plate, the youngest head coach in the NBA is also missing three-fifths of his usual starting lineup.

San Antonio Spurs (26-43) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-48)

March 16, 2022 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

DraftKings Odds: Spurs -13.5, O/U 234.5

Spurs Injuries: Keita Bates-Diop (Out — Back), Romeo Langford (Out — Hamstring), Doug McDermott (Out — Ankle), D.J. Stewart (Out — Two Way), Robert Woodard II (Out — Two Way), Devontae Cacok (Doubtful — Heel)

Thunder Injuries: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Out — Foot), Josh Giddey (Out — Hip), Derrick Favors (Out — Back), Luguentz Dort (Out — Shoulder), Ty Jerome (Out — Groin), Kenrich William (Out — Knee), Mike Muscala (Out — Ankle), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Game Time Decision — Ankle)

What To Watch For

  • The Thunder have done nothing to hide their intentional tanking over the last couple of years, and this season has been no different. Mike Muscala, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Josh Giddey, Derrick Favors, Luguentz Dort, Ty Jerome, and Kenrich William were all part of the regular rotation for head coach Mark Daigneault before landing on the injury report. And a random assortment of replacement players has only made losing as many games as possible easier for Oklahoma City. Olivier Sarr, Lindy Waters III, Isaiah Roby, Vit Krejci, and Aleksej Pokusevski are all names the casual fan has probably never heard before reading this sentence. That is all you need to know about who awaits San Antonio in the penultimate matchup of their seven-game homestand. Should the Spurs win this game handily? Sure, though we have seen the good guys struggle taking care of shorthanded opponents more than a few times this season. There is always a chance Tre Mann, Darius Bazley, or Théo Maledon puts together a career night while Dejounte Murray and Devin Vassell hound Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but even that should not keep the Silver and Black from winning.
  • Speaking of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the fourth-year guard has been on a tear since the All-Star Break. The six-six ball handler has averaged 30.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game on .530/.364/.822 over that stretch, which is outstanding considering his lackluster supporting cast of unproven prospects, second-rounders, and undrafted stand-ins. SGA laid an egg in each of his meetings with the Spurs this season, going 10-of-37 from the field. But before we write off the 23-year-old swingman as light work for Dejounte Murray, now would be a great time to remind you that he torched San Antonio for 31.7 points per game on 63.3% shooting a year ago. Luka Doncic, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid get to the charity stripe more often than the Canadian wunderkind. And his ability to put points on the scoreboard while putting opponents in foul trouble makes him a tough assignment. Of course, all this information will be irrelevant if he doesn’t suit up, so keep your fingers crossed that we get an entertaining head-to-head matchup between DJM and SGA on Wednesday night.
  • Darius Bazley is another player fans should keep an eye on. The 21-year-old has always had an intriguing blend of length, ball skills, and a smooth shooting stroke, but he has never been able to put all of them together on a consistent basis. Despite an up-and-down season, Bazley has displayed encouraging signs as of late, averaging 22.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists over his last three outings. A surplus of newfound opportunity has undoubtedly factored into his surge in per-game numbers. But shooting 56.5% from the field and 42.9% from three is the sort of development that should make Thunder fans smile. Keldon Johnson will probably defend his combo forward counterpart, so make sure to monitor how he responds to this challenge.

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