Time: 7:30PM CST
Location: AT&T Center, San Antonio
Counterpart: Pounding the Rock
The Oklahoma City Thunder begin a three game road trip tonight against a conference foe tonight in the San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder and Spurs have split the season series up to this point, and both teams are in a crucial point in the season. OKC is on a three game losing streak, while the Spurs are currently fighting for a playoff spot, sitting in 8th.
Most important to note for tonight’s game — once again the Thunder will be without their season MVP Paul George, who will miss his second game in a row due to shoulder soreness:
Billy Donovan said Paul George (right shoulder soreness) did not participate in shootaround this morning and will not play tonight against San Antonio.— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) March 2, 2019
OKC and the Spurs have split the season, and the first two meetings were both high-scoring battles. The first game in January was one of the best games of the season. It was a double-overtime classic with the Spurs eventually coming out on top 154-147. LaMarcus Aldridge had an incredible night and was simply unstoppable, finishing with a career high 56 points for San Antonio. OKC had amazing performances from Paul George (30 points), Russell Westbrook (24 points, 24 assists, and 13 rebounds) and Jerami Grant (career-high 25 points and 12 rebounds).
The two teams would meet again two nights later in Oklahoma City, with the Thunder bouncing back to beat the Spurs 122-112. OKC’s defense was completely locked into stopping Aldridge, who only scored 17.
Here are a few keys to victory for tonight’s game.
1. Limit LaMarcus Aldridge
The Thunder have two different versions of games to look at Aldridge. There’s the first game when Aldridge got to his spots, overpowered OKC inside, took all of his jump shots in rhythm, and ended up demolishing the Thunder for 56. The second game was the complete opposite, as Aldridge was double-teamed in the post, pushed off of his spots, and struggled to even get the ball. OKC will need to keep Aldridge off his spots, use their length to contest his jump shots, and try to make him a non factor offensively like the previous meeting.
2. Defend the three point line
OKC learned early in their first meeting with San Antonio not to let this team get hot from downtown. The Spurs hit their first 14 three point attempts against the Thunder in the first meeting and did not miss until late in the fourth quarter. The Thunder’s rotations will have to be on point and they will need to use their length to contest the three point attempts. Marco Bellinelli, Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, Rudy Gay and Davis Bertans are all threats from the outside that the Thunder will need to contain.
3. Turn defense into offense
The Thunder are at their very best when get they get their offense from their defensive stops. OKC has gotten much better in their half court offense with PG playing at an unbelievable level and Russ creating for others. However, the Thunder will need rely heavily on their defensive effort in a tough road environment, and capitalize on every easy bucket they can get. Even more so, without George’s offense, the Thunder will need to rely on their defense to avoid falling behind early on, as they did against Philly.
The Thunder (38-23) will need a complete team effort on both ends to get a much needed win tonight. They are at a point in the season where playoff positioning and matchups start to become extremely important. OKC has had three game losing streaks this season before and have rebounded to play some of their best basketball of the season.
Who do you think will win tonight?
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