- When: Wednesday, 27 November 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
- Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
The San Antonio Spurs have been the Oklahoma City Thunder’s chief rivals for the Western Conference crown for the past 2 seasons and that does not appear to be changing any time soon. After battling it out in a great 6-game series in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, and going toe to toe for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference last season, these two teams seem to be on the same collision course this season. Yes, there are a couple other teams, like the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Golden State Warrior, that are trying to throw their hats into the fray. But the teams they are trying to catch are still the Spurs and the Thunder.
This is the first of four meeting this season between these two rivals. The team split the season series 2-2 last season, as the Thunder won the last game between them to eventually get the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs. The Spurs come into the game having won 11 in a row, while the Thunder have reeled off 4 straight. Each of these games are usually highly competitive affairs that almost always come down to a couple of possessions at the end of the game.
Every year we keep wondering when the Spurs will finally act their age (old) and every year we are met with defiance from Gregg Popovich’s team. While the Indiana Pacers are running away with the media-driven “best record in the NBA” talk, the Spurs, as usual, find themselves tied with the Pacers (13-1), but with much less fanfare. The Spurs are 10th in the league in scoring at 102.1 points per game, but only give up 90.1 points per game on defense (good for 2nd in the league). They are a lot like the Thunder in that they have a consistent core of players and then have specialists around that core. The Spurs’ attack, which consists of a lot of penetration and 3-point shooting, is spear-headed by point guard Tony Parker. The Spurs have 7 players that average at least 10 minutes per game and shoot over 35.7% from 3-point land. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard man the wings and are 2 of the 7 players who are very adept at shooting the 3. Even though his numbers are down across the board, Tim Duncan still commands a modicum of respect, while Tiago Splitter is grabbing rebounds at a career high clip of 7.2 a game. The Spurs aren’t afraid to use anyone and everyone off of their bench, but the mainstays are Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli, and Patty Mills.
Probable Starting Line-ups
San Antonio Spurs
- PG – Tony Parker
- SG – Danny Green
- SF – Kawhi Leonard
- PF – Tim Duncan
- C – Tiago Splitter
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Thabo Sefolosha
- SF – Kevin Durant
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Kendrick Perkins
3 Keys to the Game
1. Point of Attack – The best way to beat the Spurs is to stop their point of attack, which usually begins with Tony Parker. If you allow Parker to get past the first line of defense and attack the paint, then he has a whole range of options at his disposal. He could either score, as he is always near the top of the league in points in the paint, or, if the defense collapses, he could kick it out to any myriad of 3-point shooters in his arsenal. Thunder head coach Scott Brooks has countered this in the past by putting Sefolosha on Parker.
2. Attack Tim Duncan – As strange as that may sound, Duncan is starting to show a sliver of age this season. This season, Serge Ibaka has been very consistent on the offensive end and has been a lot better at getting rebounds, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Ibaka just may be too much of a dynamic player at this point for Duncan to contain.
3. Bench – If the starters fall into a hole, it will be up to the bench to either bring the Thunder back or keep pace. The Thunder sports one of the more dynamic benches in the league, but that is probably matched by the Spurs’ bench. Hopefully Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams, and Perry Jones III don’t try to do too much in their first match-up against the rival Spurs.
Let’s go Thunder. Break the streak!