Thunder Prepped for Road Test – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC at SAS

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

Broadcast Information

SAN ANTONIO – At 29-8 at the AT&T Center, the San Antonio Spurs have the third-best home record in the NBA. A combination of a rowdy crowd, a veteran squad and a legendary head coach all create a dynamic that is difficult to deal with for the opposition. As the Thunder emerges from a three-day break to begin a tough Western Conference back-to-back, it will have to begin by battling a tested Spurs squad.

“It’s an understanding of what we’re up against. San Antonio has always been a great home team,” forward Carmelo Anthony said. “I think the most important thing is a level of focus and the way we stay composed throughout the course of the game.”

“They’re going to do a really good job of attacking the paint, playing off the dribble, making the extra pass, moving the ball,” Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan reported. “They’re going to really, really be good defensively in terms of protecting the deep paint, protecting the rim and trying to keep you off the free throw line.”

1-on-1: Terrance Ferguson

Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich is a master motivator, and veterans like Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have been winning to take on roles coming off the bench in lieu of youngster Dejounte Murray at one of the guard spots. The crucial cog in the Spurs offense, however, is LaMarcus Aldridge, who is presently listed as questionable for tonight’s showdown between competing Western Conference rivals. Typically the task of dealing with Aldridge lands in the hands of Steven Adams.

“(Aldridge) is so good at shot faking and drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line,” Donovan noted. “For a big man facing up, he’s got an arsenal of different things that he goes to that makes him really hard to defend.”

If Aldridge does play, a recent Thunder tactic has proven to be effective in not necessarily stopping the power forward himself, but derailing the rest of San Antonio’s offense, which is predicated on constant movement and relentless passing. If the Thunder can execute its defense to encourage isolation attempts on post ups or long, jab-stepping jumpers by Aldridge, that can prevent the Spurs from getting to the type of drive, swing-swing action that they prefer.

“It helps us because everyone's already set to our defensive rebounding,” Adams explained. “Now, if you constantly move the ball – which they did change to doing – everyone's scrambled now and it's much harder to get those box outs, and then it's a lot harder to quickly transition to the next phase offensively.”

Thunder Talk: Coach and Adams - 3/28

Tonight’s matchup is not only going to be able the x’s and o’s, but also the heart and hustle. Both teams are going to be highly motivated, particularly since they sit just one game apart in the Western Conference standings. The Thunder is currently in 4th place at 44-31. The Spurs, in 6th at 43-32. A win in either direction could have a huge impact on this closing stretch, with just 7 games remaining in the regular season. The Thunder knows this is the time of year where the intensity ramps up another level, and they must be prepared to follow through on their mission statement from the beginning of the year.

“Our expectation was to be the best team we could be with the understanding that we have an opportunity to do something great, that we have an opportunity to make a run in these playoffs and potentially play for a championship,” Anthony stated. “That was the goal.”

Nick's Notebook

- For 10 straight years since he began his NBA career, Anthony made the playoffs with either the Denver Nuggets or New York Knicks. For the past four seasons, his Knicks teams missed out on the postseason, and this summer, Anthony knew he didn’t want to experience that again. To know what it’s like to be playing for something late into the year and then have that stripped away was uncomfortable, and that’s why he jumped at the chance to join the Thunder, and is relishing this current playoff push.

  • “To have an opportunity to have some playoff-atmosphere games leading into the playoffs, playing against teams that’s right there in the bunch with you, these are fun games and I think we have to approach it like that,” Anthony said. “We have to take it serious, we have to understand the situation we’re in and our focus level has to be at an all-time high, but these are fun games, and we should approach that and understand that the mentality that we have to have is to go out there and win, but also enjoy this moment, enjoy these moments that we’re about to come across.”
  • “To have that feeling and know what that feeling is like, then to not have that feeling, you don’t want to experience that anymore,” Anthony added, in relation to being back in playoff contention. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come to OKC, because I saw the opportunity in what we have, and understand what we’re capable of. "

- On Wednesday it was announced that Anthony is nominated for the Pro Basketball Writer’s Association’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, which honors outstanding community service. Through Anthony’s philanthropic efforts in Puerto Rico, in Oklahoma City and elsewhere, the Thunder forward has been able to give back to others and made such an impact that he’s been recognized on a national stage.

  • “For people to recognize that, see that and acknowledge that, it means a lot to me,” Anthony said. “It’s a motivation to keep it going, but I think at the end of the day I do it because I love to do it… You’re doing it for the sake of the people and the communities that you actually help.”

Turn it up. It’s game day <- <- <- <- <- <-

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