Another Wednesday, another full slate of NBA games. The undercard features Dallas at Toronto (Dirk in the midst of a 50-40-90 season), Sacramento at Houston (Dwight and Harden against Cousins and Gay), and Atlanta at Orlando (Oladipo!!! Korver!!!). However, the Game of the Night is a battle of two of the top Western Conference teams. The Game of the Night is the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs. Both San Antonio and Oklahoma City sit atop the West (San Antonio are currently number one in the West, Oklahoma City at number two), and both teams look to test their might against one another, hoping to find potential holes for an eventual playoff series.
The Spurs are 32-9 and nothing has changed. They’re third in the league with a 108.2 offensive rating and fourth with a 99.2 defensive rating. They can get it done going big (Duncan/Splitter lineups), and wreak havoc going small (Duncan at center, Diaw at power forward). Tony Parker is playing excellent ball at the moment (17.9 points, 6.3 assists), and since a poor start to the season, Tim Duncan is back to his typical production, averaging 15.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.1 blocks, 51% shooting in January. The offseason addition have helped (Jeff Ayers works as the team’s fourth big, and Marco Belinelli is currently shooting 50% from three), and there’s no reason to think the Spurs won’t turn it up come playoff team, in hope of repeating as Western Conference Champions.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are 31-10, and all praise goes to Kevin Durant. In the absence of Westbrook, Kevin Durant is averaging 30.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shooting the lights out with a True Shooting percentage of 63%. If he can sustain these averages, I’d find it tough to not give Durant the MVP, even with LeBron’s staggering numbers. The Westbrook injuries are concerning, but Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb are proving that their early season success wasn’t a fluke. Jackson (13.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists per game) isn’t the team’s point guard, but rather, that second ball-handler, needed to ease some of the pressure off Durant. As for Lamb (9.9 points, 36.5% three-point shooting), he has provided value in their second unit. The role players are shaping up the outskirt of the roster, and if Steven Adams can continue to contribute 10-15 spot minutes, I find it tough to see the Thunder not having say in who comes out of the West.
The Pick: Oklahoma City. I feel sure about this one. The Spurs just don’t show up for these ESPN games. Perhaps the 8:00pm start and a worthy opponent in Oklahoma City can get them up? If not, give me Oklahoma City in a close game (Spurs reserves always make this game). Thunder 101, Spurs 96.
National TV: ESPN
Regional TV: FSOK (Oklahoma City) | KENS (San Antonio)
Time: 8:00 PM EST