Two of the Western Conference’s top teams clash on Thursday night as the San Antonio Spurs host the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Spurs, on a five-game winning streak, will look to keep it rolling and knock off the Thunder in San Antonio.
Fresh off of a win in Detroit, the San Antonio Spurs will host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.
The Spurs have been on a hot streak as of late. They have won five in a row and 13 of their last 16 games.
This will be the first meeting of the season between the two teams. The Thunder have given the Spurs problems for many years, but this Spurs team is vastly different than those of years past.
San Antonio has unquestionably been one of the NBA’s hottest teams over the past month.
That being said, splitting or sweeping this upcoming back-to-back series with the Thunder would be huge for the team. While the Spurs have knocked off quite a few high-ranking teams in the NBA during their recent winning streak, (the Nuggets, Raptors, and Celtics to name a few) none have given them quite as much trouble as the Thunder have in recent years.
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The Thunder are one of the best defensive teams in the league. They lead all teams in defensive rating and are 7th in points allowed. They absolutely strangle opposing offenses, limiting them to a paltry 106 points per game. That defense begins with Paul George.
George has always been an elite defender. That’s been the case since he came into the league with the Indiana Pacers. But as the captain of Oklahoma City’s defense, he has helped take them to another level.
He has a rim-protecting big in Steven Adams to help him in the rare instance he gets beat, lightning fast guards like Terrance Ferguson and Dennis Schroder who harass opposing ball handlers as soon as they cross half court, and he has brought out the very best in Russell Westbrook.
Per The Athletic’s Sam Amick, George pushed Westbrook to make his first All-Defensive Team this season and, as he always does, Westbrook has risen to the challenge.
In order to win this back-to-back showdown with the Thunder, the Spurs will have to rely on Aldridge to carry the load.
Between him and DeRozan, Aldridge has the better matchup. While Adams is a bruiser and a heck of a player, he’s not an amazing one-on-one defender.
If Aldridge can get him into foul trouble early it should be smooth sailing for the Spurs. With Nerlens Noel now out with an injury he sustained on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Thunder are shorthanded down low. Neither Patrick Patterson nor Jerami Grant can lock down Aldridge.
The Spurs’ gameplan should be relatively straightforward. Feed Aldridge early and often, try to get Adams into foul trouble, and then let Aldridge eat. Kick it out to three-point bombers Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli when necessary, but try to generate easy buckets and free throws down low.
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This upcoming back-to-back against the Thunder certainly promises to be interesting. The first matchup takes place on Thursday night in San Antonio. Tip-off is at 8:30 pm CT.