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Oklahoma City Thunder vs San Antonio Spurs - start time, preview and game thread

The Thunder play their last game before the All-Star break against San Antonio

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Broadcast Details:

Start time - 7:00 p.m. (CT)

Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma

The Thunder are heading into tonight’s game on a massive high. Oklahoma City went into overtime in Madison Square Garden and outlasted the Knicks for an excellent win on the road. I know that the Thunder are supposed to be tanking this season but you simply cannot be annoyed at young guys winning games on the back of their performances.

In the past, we have seen teams intentionally tank games by playing ill-fitting, uncompetitive lineups but I have never thought that this is a good way to develop players. In that sort of situation, there is little pressure to build the sort of winning habits that last deep into the team’s competitive cycle.

Coach Mark Daigneault has avoided the temptation to lose games on the purpose and largely stuck to playing competitive lineups on a nightly basis. His approach has meant that the Thunder have pulled away from the cellar dwellers and from the prospect of having the worst record in the league.

However, the Thunder have been in a lot of competitive games this season and the young guys are really getting meaningful minutes. Josh Giddey has grown into being one of the best playmakers in the NBA at the tender age of 19 years old. His triple-double against the New York Knicks was emblematic of his impact and growth.

Giddey’s passing set the tone for the Thunder’s offense and his offensive rebounding snared precious second chance scoring opportunities for OKC. His growth as a scorer is very encouraging to see. Giddey scored 28 points against the Knicks and showed no fear in attacking the defense.

Tre Mann has been up and down all season long in terms of consistency but he is now rounding into form. Mann came to the Thunder with the promise of being a professional scorer who can hit from all three levels. Against the Knicks, he showed every facet of his game.

There were step-back threes, fadeaway mid-range jumpers and high layups kissed off the backboard. His array of moves was impressive to see but it was not just the variety which stood out to me; it was Mann’s interpretation of space.

He did not mindlessly attack the basket or launch away from downtown. When he saw a double or a help defender shaded over to cover him, Tre would use his footwork and create an uncontested jumper.

His work inside was quite beautiful for a guy who does not really play above the rim. He continually placed the ball high on the backboard and got the ball away from Mitchell Robinson’s wingspan. His execution on these finishes did not diminish across the course of the game.

Darius Bazley again had a great performance and finally seems to be working out his footwork near the basket. In the past, Bazley would stutter and stop and lose all momentum on his drives. Over the last ten games, he is using his long, loping strides to commit the defense and create reverse layups for himself.

When he drives, it nearly always looks like Bazley has dribbled a step too far and that the finishing angle is impossible. However, he uses a long step to get onto the weak-side of the floor and finish without being contested. It is a savvy, controlled movement from a player who has looked panicked on drives over the last three seasons.

The San Antonio Spurs are the Thunder’s opponents tonight and as a team, they have been impressive. When Demar DeRozan chose to go to Chicago, there was a belief that San Antonio would be pretty bad for the next few seasons as the Spurs went about assembling their future core.

We failed to understand that San Antonio does not do being bad and that Coach Pop always has a plan for the future. The departure of DeRozan has led to the re-emergence of Dejounte Murray.

Murray, a Seattle native, was taken in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Spurs as a long-term project. He played his first two seasons in the league alongside the likes of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. He earned his starting spot on a team that was trying to compete on the back of excellent defense,

Murray’s lanky frame and long arms mean that he is very good at bothering his assignment into missing shots and making mistakes. In the 2017-18 season, he was named on All-Defence 2nd team and that voracious desire has carried out throughout his career. Murray wants to be disruptive and aggressive on defense at all times.

He lost a season to an ACL injury and spent the best of two years regaining his confidence. He came into this season as the Spurs’ lead guy and has not disappointed. Murray is averaging 20 points, 9 assists and 2 steals per game for the season. Those numbers have led him being named to his first All-Star game.

Dejounte has weaknesses, namely his inefficiency from downtown and the Thunder must capitalise on his flaw. His defender must sag off Murray and encourage him to pull up from deep. That is a better defensive possession that simply allowing Dejounte to slice the Thunder apart with his passing.

Murray is the head of the San Antonio snake and for the Thunder to win, they must take him out of rhythm early in the game.