Tip-Off: 7 PM CDT
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Television: ESPN, FSOK
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
F Kawhi Leonard has continued to keep his name in the running for MVP, despite having a rough game against the Warriors just two nights ago. For the season, Leonard is averaging 25.9 points while shooting 48.3% from the field, 36.5% from three, and 88.2% from the free throw line to go along with 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.8 steals. Leonard is still young, but he is undoubtedly the experienced leader for the Spurs, and he carries them on both ends of the floor. Against the Thunder this season, Leonard has had varying success. In the first meeting on January 31st, he led the Spurs to a win with his 36 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists, but in the second meeting just three weeks ago, he was held to 19 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists, thanks mostly to an impressive defensive performance by Andre Roberson. Roberson has played amazing defense lately, so if he is able to have success against Kawhi tonight, the Thunder will have a good chance to come away with a win.
Keys to the Game
- Start off Strong: While the last two games have been some of the most exciting in recent history, the Thunder cannot continue to play in the 4th quarter with a double-digit deficit and expect Russell Westbrook to bail them out. The Spurs are not a struggling squad like the Mavericks or the Magic, so if Oklahoma City gets down early, they will have a much more difficult time mounting a comeback. In the last game against San Antonio, Oklahoma City led for pretty much the whole game. The Thunder needs to jump out to a solid start rather than continuing to play from behind like they have been.
- Defend with Intensity: Oklahoma City’s defense has either been on top of things or falling completely apart lately, and in order to be successful against the Spurs, you have to start on the defensive side of the ball. San Antonio does not shoot a high volume of threes, but they are the most accurate team from behind the perimeter making 39.1% of their attempts. The Thunder need to play intense on-the-ball defense to avoid letting the Spurs get hot from deep, but Oklahoma City also needs to maintain an inside presence against a San Antonio squad that has had success against the Thunder in the paint so far this season.
- Somebody Step Up: Russell Westbrook has flat out carried the Thunder lately, and he desperately needs some help from his teammates. While it has been an absolutely pleasure watching Westbrook make history, winning is more important than individual performances. A big reason for Oklahoma City’s Success against the Spurs earlier this month was due to the team involvement on both ends of the floor. Westbrook led the team in scoring with 23 points, but four other teammates scored in double digits as well. If Westbrook fails to get help tonight, specifically from the second unit when he goes to the bench, the Thunder will struggle tonight.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.