Akshay Manwani Freelance writer based in Mumbai

In an attempt to rid himself of the perils of performance appraisals, Akshay ventured into the world of freelance writing where he combined his twin interests of sports and cinema. He has since contributed to The Caravan, BCCI.tv, Business Standard and Man's World, among other publications. He has followed the fortunes of the NBA since the early ’90s, an experience that has given him extraordinary moments of joy in an otherwise mundane existence.

All season long, Akshay will cover the League from the point of view of a basketball expert living in India. Follow him every week on NBA.com/india!

San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City Preview

What: The two best teams in the Western Conference square off for one final time in the 2012-13 regular season on April 5. This game could well be what decides homecourt advantage through to the Western Conference Finals since OKC is only 1.5 games adrift of San Antonio, who leads all teams in the West with a 56-19 record. OKC is in second, with a 54-20 regular season record.

When: Friday, April 5, 7:00 AM IST – Watch it LIVE on SIX

Where: At Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. San Antonio is a fantastic road team, having lost just 14 games away from home this season. Only the Miami Heat, with a 26-12 record, have done better on the road this season. The Thunder, meanwhile, are almost unbeatable at home. They are one of only four teams (the other three being Miami, San Antonio and Denver) to have not lost more than five games at home this season. In all, OKC are 32-5 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Previous meetings in 2012-13:

On November 1, 2012 @ San Antonio: In what was a tightly contested game, San Antonio edged the Thunder, 86-84. Tony Parker knocked down two long-range jumpers in the final seconds of the game, including a 21-footer over the outstretched hand of Serge Ibaka at the buzzer, to give the Spurs the win.

On December 17, 2012 @ Oklahoma City: Serge Ibaka scored 25 points and pulled down 17 rebounds as OKC handed the Spurs a 14-point defeat. Kevin Durant, Ibaka, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin accounted for 86 points among themselves as the Thunder registered a convincing 107-93 win.

On March 11, 2013 @ San Antonio: San Antonio center Tiago Splitter came up with a big game, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Spurs beat the Thunder, 105-93. The Spurs also put on a strong showing at both ends of the court in this game, shooting 52 percent from the floor while limiting Oklahoma City to just 43 percent.

How San Antonio fare: The Spurs rank among the top three teams in field-goal and 3-point shooting percentages. They have a more well-rounded unit, play deeper and have improved significantly at the defensive end. They will obviously miss Manu Ginobili, who is out with a right hamstring injury, but then again Ginobili did not play two of the first three regular season meetings between the two teams and yet San Antonio managed to win a game without him.

How OKC fare: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are enough to give any team in the league, including Miami, the shivers. And if Ibaka can put in another showing like his double-double performance against the Spurs in December, OKC will be difficult to beat. Yet, Kevin Martin is the X-factor for the Thunder. He has had an ordinary month of March, where his PPG, field-goal, free-throw and 3-point shooting averages have dropped significantly compared to the first few months of the season. Correspondingly, OKC’s form has also dipped in this period.

Akshay’s take: If both teams play to full strength, with all players who are injury-free taking the court, it should be an exciting game. But there is no second-guessing Gregg Popovich, who might wish to rest some of his players ahead of what looks to be a long playoff haul for the Spurs. If that happens, the Thunder will have the perfect opportunity to square the regular-season series, setting up an intriguing postseason contest between the two teams for the mantle of Best in the West.

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