Spurs vs Thunder 4/7/15

Spurs-Thunder Preview

Although the San Antonio Spurs continue to surge, they're still battling for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the undermanned Oklahoma City Thunder are scrapping to merely reach the postseason.

San Antonio looks for a season high-matching eighth straight win Tuesday night when it visits Oklahoma City.

The Spurs (51-26) are 17-3 since Feb. 27, pulling within one half-game of the fifth-place Los Angeles Clippers. They could still earn home-court in the first round with a fifth-place finish if their record bests that of Northwest Division-leading Portland.

Though the Spurs are third in the Southwest, a fifth straight division title is still possible with Houston only two games ahead. They haven't finished worse than second in the division since a sixth-place finish in 1996-97.

San Antonio, which also won eight in a row Nov. 17-Dec. 1, has allowed 87.6 points per game on 41.9 percent shooting during its streak. The Spurs ended Golden State's 12-game run with a 107-92 home win Sunday - the first time the Warriors failed to reach at least 100 points in 14 games.

Kawhi Leonard matched his career high with 26 points and recorded a personal-best seven steals. He has averaged 19.4 points and 2.8 steals while shooting 54.2 percent over his last 19 games. He and Russell Westbrook are the only players averaging at least 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals.

"He is really playing confidently, but he hasn't forgotten to predicate his game on defense and on the boards," coach Gregg Popovich said. "It kind of fuels him offensively."

Oklahoma City (42-35) is hoping to reach the playoffs for a sixth straight year but faces a barrage of injuries.

Playing without starters Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Andre Roberson, the Thunder lead ninth-place New Orleans by one half-game, but have lost five of six and three in a row for the first time since a season-worst six-game skid Nov. 14-23. They've also dropped two of three at home after winning 20 of their previous 22 there.

The Pelicans had won four straight before losing Saturday at Portland.

Oklahoma City's attrition has left a heavy burden on Westbrook, who is averaging 30.6 points, 10.6 assists and 9.1 rebounds with nine triple-doubles in 22 games since Durant last played. He has averaged 40.2 minutes over his last five.

"He understands that the rest is important to come back with a full tank every night, and he has done that," coach Scott Brooks said. "He's a special player, and he's at a high level in that regard. He has the energy that can fill an entire arena, and he's done a good job of recharging his batteries night in and night out."

While Durant is done for the season, Roberson is day to day.

These teams split two earlier meetings with San Antonio winning 130-91 at home on March 25 to end a six-game series slide. The Spurs shot 58.0 percent with seven players scoring 10 or more. Westbrook was 5 of 16 for 16 points after scoring 34 in a 114-106 win at San Antonio on Christmas Day.

Spurs center Tiago Splitter sat out against the Warriors with a tight right calf and is expected to miss at least the next three games.



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