The Thunder travel to San Antonio tonight to face the Spurs, owners of the best home record in the league and they sit atop their division standings. San Antonio has had some ups and downs this season, as you would expect from a calculating veteran team that is looking to keep everyone healthy over the long haul. They most recently defeated the New Orleans Hornets for their third win in a row and are getting the kind of guard play they need in order to dominate in the scoring column. In fact, despite the long held belief that the Spurs are a plodding team, they are currently 6th overall in scoring and 3rd in team assists.
If we refer back to the first meeting between the two teams, The Thunder played in front well for the first half and then exploded in the 3rd quarter to put the game away. Kevin Durant was the high point man with 21, but he only needed nine shots to get there. I know I was surprised at how easily OKC handled the Spurs that day, but it makes me wary that they might think this time out will be just as straightforward.
I think that the big test tonight for the Thunder will be to keep the Spurs perimeter players in check. In their first game, the Spurs did not play their best in terms of hitting open shots. With the home crowd supporting them and the challenge of facing the best team in the league in front of them, I think the Spurs will do much better offensively this time out. OKC will need to do a good job staying with their men on defense so that Tony Parker's drives and kicks do not splinter the Thunder defense.
OKC is coming off of a grueling win last night, but how much of a factor will that be? In game one, the Thunder were wrapping up a back-to-back-to-back, and suffered little because of it. I think this points toward the evidence that it is the style of game that can wear on the Thunder, not the pace. If the Spurs can play physical ball, I think they can capitalize on the Thunder's schedule. However, if it becomes a more open court game, OKC's trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden will put the Spurs defense to the test.
Prediction: Thunder 105, Spurs 102