Time: 7:00 CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Broadcast: NBATV, FSOK
Counterpart: Pounding the Rock
The silver lining in Thursday’s epic loss was perhaps Russell Westbrook’s greatest game of the season, topped off with a casual 24 assists. All the dishing wasn’t quite enough to counter LaMarcus Aldridge going nuclear to the tune of 56 points.
This time, Gregg Popovich’s new-look Spurs travel to the Peake, where the OKC Thunder are 13-6 on the season. OKC Thunder fans are some of the most passionate in the league, and the Thunder hope that their energy and vigor will help even the weekly series with the Spurs, as well as snap a 2-game home skid after back-to-back home losses to the Wizards and Timberwolves earlier this week.
The San Antonio Spurs are 7-3 over their last 10 games, and they’re rising fast in the western conference standings.
The Thunder are hoping the Spurs’ road troubles (7-13 in away games) plays in their favor. The Thunder look to defend their top 3 standing in the West, avenge their loss, and slow down one of the hottest teams in the league.
Here’s what to watch for as they do so.
LaMarcus Aldridge had a field day against the Thunder in the last game, and having Nerlens Noel out on the NBA’s concussion protocol only played in his favor. It’s foolish to assume the Spurs won’t try to feed LMA again (and again...and again), given his success on Thursday.
The Thunder will have to be creative in how they stop LMA, as LMA is just too big and strong for Jerami Grant playing small-ball 5. Donovan may end up matching Steven Adams’ minutes (he will be available) with Aldridge’s so that the Thunder have their best defensive option as often as possible.
Steven Adams (ankle) is available to play tonight.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) January 12, 2019
With Rudy Gay still out, the Thunder may try to double up or dig down on Aldridge, gambling that Thursday’s outside shooting barrage can’t be replicated.
The Thunder will need strong performances from Dennis Schröder and Terrance Ferguson to avenge their loss.
Schröder has been in a slump of sorts, but had an OK game on Thursday, complete with a few important buckets, yet still not having the kind of impact he should be capable of. He has all the talent he needs to be a “super 6th man,” similar to Andre Iguodala or Lou Williams, but Schröder’s inconsistency, even while going against bench units, is limiting his impact. For the Thunder to slam the gavel on the Spurs, Schröder will need to bring it from the bench, and most importantly, make the open shots the defense is giving him.
Similarly, Terrance Ferguson needs to use the momentum from Thursday’s performance to repeat tonight.
Ferguson went 7 of 10 from distance, his best of his young career, and was Westbrook’s prime target at the end of regulation as OKC completed a mad scramble to send the game into OT. Having an emboldened and confident Ferguson from the perimeter combined, with his usual cantankerous defense could prove to be a real headache for the Spurs.
Who do you think will win tonight?
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