Tip-Off: 7:30 PM CST
Location: AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
F Kawhi Leonard is having a solid year for the Spurs averaging a career-high 25.4 points per game (10th in the NBA) to go with 5.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.8 steals per game (7th in the NBA). Leonard is also shooting an impressive 41.1% from beyond the arc, which is 15th in the league. Andre Roberson proved to the world why he deserves to be an NBA starter when he effectively defended Leonard for an entire series last year in the second round of the playoffs. Roberson will need to play lockdown on defense on Leonard and take him out of his typical rhythm.
Keys to the Game
- Crash the Boards: One thing that the Thunder has consistently done well, even in losses, is rebound the basketball. Oklahoma City ranks 4th in the NBA with 45.6 rebounds per game, while San Antonio sits at 18th in the league with 42.9 per game. Specifically, Oklahoma City does a great job at rebounding the ball off missed shots and putting it up back up for points. The Thunder ranks 8th with 13.8 second chance points, but the Spurs only allow 11.9 second chance points (7th in NBA). With big man Enes Kanter out for 6-8 weeks, the Thunder will need other players to step up, and making hustle plays by chasing down rebounds and putting up second chance shots is a great way to contribute.
- Run the Break: When Oklahoma City effectively controls the transition game, they excel on both ends of the floor. The Thunder ranks 3rd with 17.4 fast break points per game, and they only allow 11.1 points in transition, which is also 3rd in the NBA. San Antonio plays a much slower-paced game with only 11.8 fast break points per game (20th in the NBA), and they allow 13.0 points in transition per game (14th in the NBA). Oklahoma City has to stay in control of the tempo and take care of the ball in the process. If they can effectively control this area of the game, they will be in a really good position to get out of San Antonio with a win.
- Finish the Game: The Thunder is 9th in the NBA in 1st half scoring averaging 54.0 points through the first two quarters, but they drop to 17th in the league with an average of 51.0 points in the second half. Specifically, Oklahoma City struggles in the 3rd quarter ranking 18th with only 25.1 points. If the Thunder struggles out of the gate and heads into halftime trailing, it does them no good to come out flat in the 3rd quarter. Oklahoma City needs to start off strong, and then come out of the locker room at the half focused and ready to finish strong.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.