Spurs vs. Thunder: Finals Week Almost Over
You know how in college, they call it “Finals Week” even though it usually runs closer to two? Well let’s call this most recent Spurs run Finals Week. Eight games in 12 nights, six of which were on the road. They flew across four time zones to play in those games and had three back-to-backs over that span. And they didn’t have their starting point guard/most important offensive player for two and a half of those games.
So far, the Spurs have won all but one of their games during Finals Week. The final test comes tonight when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that stopped their 11 game winning streak in November. The Thunder come in to San Antonio riding an eight game winning streak (they also apparently spent some extra time at the AT&T Center checking out the Jigga Man Friday night). No doubt the Spurs would like to return the favor and end Oklahoma City’s win streak, but that will likely depend on Tony Parker’s availability. Parker injured his shin against the Los Angeles Clippers and missed Wednesday and Thursday’s back-to-back wins over the Suns and Warriors. The Spurs have not announced whether Parker will play and we likely won’t find out until Coach Pop’s pre-game media scrum.
The last time these two teams met, the Spurs played possibly their best defensive game of the season. They held Oklahoma City to 46 percent shooting overall, but more importantly 26 percent from 3. Russell Westbrook, in particular, had a terrible game, shooting just 2-for-16. Dating back to the four games the teams played in last year, Westbrook is shooting well below 40 percent from the field. The Spurs do a good job of going under screens to make Westbrook take long jumpers and they also try to push him to one side of the court, giving him less open space to blow by defenders. This doesn’t completely stop him. According to NBA.com, last season he still averaged eight free throws a game against the Spurs. Still, there’s no arguing Russell Westbrook has more trouble against the Spurs than any other team in the West.
The Spurs problem last month was that they shot even worse than Oklahoma City, hitting just 39 percent from the field and a dreadful 26 percent from three on 27 attempts. Whether it’s the home court or just the fact that guys like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Marco Belinelli are shooting better now than they were three weeks ago, I’m going to bank on the Spurs shooting at a higher clip tonight. The key, however, will be Parker. If he’s healthy enough to play and get into the paint, the Spurs offense should be fine. Otherwise, it’ll be easier for the Thunder to defend the Spurs even with their great ball movement.
Tip-off from the AT&T Center is set for 7:30 p.m. CT and can be seen on KENS.