Enjoy your Wednesday night, friends, for we have another full slate of basketball. This is weird, as we have two games starting at 7:00pm, four starting at 7:30pm, four at 8:00pm, and one game starting at 8:30pm and 9:00pm, respectively. While we have nothing interesting in that 7:00 to 7:30 group, the 8:00 group picks it up with Denver traveling to Minnesota, and the 8:30 game is Dallas hosting Golden State. But let’s go back to that 8:00pm slate, and talk about our Game of the Night, the San Antonio Spurs going to Oklahoma City to face Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Thanks to Portland’s incredible start, the Thunder sit in the third slot in the Western Conference. What more to say about Oklahoma City that already hasn’t been said? The duo of Westbrook and Durant charge the offense, and Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka help anchor the league’s fifth-best defense in terms of efficiency. Kendrick Perkins has been the thorn in the side of fans, but Nick Collison and rookie Steven Adams offer the toughness, rebounding, and in Collison’s case, the defense Perkins is percieved to offer. The energy Adams provides off the bench is great, and the duo of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb off the bench, gives Oklahoma City some youth and energy in their second unit. Even Scott Brooks is making some adjustments as a coach. This is an excellent basketball team, that looks to have a fire in their eye, after last season’s disappointing Western Conference Semi-Finals exit.
As for San Antonio, they have the second-best defensive efficiency in basketball (92.3), and the sixth-best offense (106.1). Tony Parker is playing like one of the top three-point guards in basketball, Tim Duncan is manning the defense, while struggling on the offensive end, and Kawhi Leonard is slowly taking a larger role in the team’s offense, while doubling as an élite wing defender on the outside. While Oklahoma City plays with this vengeance mentality, San Antonio continues to chug along. They understand the goal is to get back to that moment in Miami, and thus, consider the regular season irrelevant. Other than Tim Duncan’s offensive struggles (39.6 eFG% and 44.7 TS% in 11 field goal attempts per game), the Spurs seem to play through these regular seasons as if nothing is happening, as if they aren’t aging, and as if the window isn’t closing. It’s impressive to see.
The Call: I’m going San Antonio. This is a good Oklahoma City Thunder team, but a weird one, all at the same time. Russell Westbrook has not looked good in his first nine games, to start the season. Currently, Westbrook is sporting a 44.9 eFG%, 49.9 TS%, and a net rating of 3.3, per NBA.com’s media stats. He’s fantastic, but two of Oklahoma City’s most played lineups (Westbrook-Sefolosha-Durant-Ibaka-Perkins and Westbrook-Sefolosha-Durant-Ibaka-Adams) are sporting defensive ratings well over 100.0, and negative net ratings. He’s a top ten talent, so he’ll get out of it, but now, it’s not too good for Oklahoma City when Westbrook is on the court at the moment.
I think San Antonio are more together now. Even with Tim Duncan in limbo offensively, San Antonio still touts a strong defensive lineup with him on the court. I also give San Antonio the bench edge, as Belinelli, Diaw, Ginobili, and Mills are solid, and can spread the floor offensively. Not to say Oklahoma City’s bench is bad, but it’s a bit inexperienced, especially with Lamb and Adams getting solid minutes. I say, Duncan has a bounce back game, Parker spearheads the charge, and a good Kawhi Leonard game helps San Antonio get the win in Oklahoma City. Spurs 103, Thunder 98.
National TV: None
Local TV: FSSW (Spurs) | FSOK (Thunde) | Or Check League Pass
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET