INTEGRIS Game Day Report: Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs – March 26, 2016

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

It’s always a battle when the Thunder and San Antonio Spurs square off and tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena it should be no different as the two elite squads collide, regardless of who is on the floor.

After winning six straight games over the past week and a half, the Thunder are humming and have eclipsed the 50-win mark for the fifth time in the past seven years. Only the Spurs have had that level of success during the regular season during that time span, and that level of consistency is what makes both teams so difficult to contend with on a nightly basis.

Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are the headliners in San Antonio, providing stability and accountability within the ranks as Head Coach Gregg Popovich roams the sideline, but all five won’t suit up for the Spurs tonight due to injury and rest.

The Spurs have lined their team with excellent players, however, specifically Danny Green, Boris Diaw, David West, Patty Mills and Kyle Anderson rounding out the second unit – not to mention Kevin Martin and Andre Miller as late veteran additions to the squad. In order to come away victorious, the Thunder will have to lock in on all aspects of the game plan, and play together for all four quarters.

“We’re playing against a team that is seasoned and veteran. They’ve been incredible this year. Anytime you play against really good teams you can’t help but get better,” Donovan said. “They know they have to be disciplined, block out, get back and not break down to have an opportunity to guard them.”

“We still have to get better. It’s an opportunity for us to grow and get better while we’re on the court,” Durant noted. “They still run the same stuff, they still run their stuff with pace and they have shooters out there.”

One of the reasons the Spurs are such a tough cover each night is the agenda-less, flowing basketball that is played possession-by-possession. That type of passing, cutting and overall skill level can be a chore to defend for 24 seconds of the shot clock for an entire 48 minute game. In order to prevent the Spurs from getting hot from behind the three-point line, weaving to easy scores at the rim and getting to the free throw line, the Thunder will have to be disciplined.

“They move the ball with the best of them. They’re well coached,” guard Randy Foye said. “We have to bring our ‘A’ game because we know they’re going to bring theirs.”

Where the Spurs have been most dominant this season, however, is the defensive end. Going up against what is statistically the best defense in the league will be no easy feat for the Thunder, but fortunately Donovan and company’s second-ranked offense is no joy to defend. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook seeing a mix of man-to-man and double teams, the Thunder’s playmakers must be ready to find open teammates, and the Thunder’s role players must be diligent about their movement and spacing off the ball.

“I tend to look at the help now,” Durant explained. “I see if I can beat my man. Most of the time they’re coming over, helping and loading up. I have to make the right plays.”

Broadcast Information:

Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT

Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma

Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

Nick Gallo
Digital Content Reporter

Nick Gallo is in his fifth season with the Thunder after spending four seasons in the NFL. The Durham, NC native is a Vanderbilt University graduate and has worked for the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.

You can reach Nick Gallo at mailbag@okcthunder.com