Scouting the Thunder: Spurs will need big contributions from all to stop Thunder

Briefing SessionKD

The San Antonio Spurs (15-9) are back on their winning ways as they’ve put together a three-game winning streak by defeating Memphis on the road, and fighting hard against the Rockets and Hornets back home (12-1). The Spurs will play their last home game for almost an entire month as the team hosts the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight before embarking on their nine-game traditional Rodeo Road trip.

In their last meeting in Oklahoma City, the Spurs were defeated 108-96 as the Thunder were led by All-Star starter Kevin Durant’s 21 points. The main dagger in the Spurs’ side that night though, was a player who is reminiscent of the Spurs’ injured Manu Ginobili – left handed James Harden, who scored 20 points off the bench in the last meeting.

Case No. 25: Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 18-4. Road: 9-3. Last 10 games: 8-2

Commendable areas for the Thunder

  • Smart shooters: Though the Thunder only take 76.3 shots per game which is ranked second to last in the league, they make those shots at a very efficient rate of 47% shooting from the field which ranks 3rd in the NBA. The Thunder average 100.1 points per game, which is ranked as the third highest scoring offense.
  • Get to the line: The Thunder are a physical team that drives to the basket as they are ranked 2nd in the NBA with 27.6 free throw attempts. The other efficient part of the Thunder is that they’re ranked 1st in the NBA with 22 free throw makes per game. Credit Durant, Westbrook, and Harden for being the main weapons that drive to the paint and get to the free throw line.
  • Rebounding: The Thunder are ranked 4th in the NBA in defensive rebounds with 32.9 per game, their overall rebounding is ranked 10th in the league with 43 boards per game.
  • Defense: Anytime you’re ranked number one in a league with 30 teams, you probably play pretty good defense. The Thunder do just that by holding their opponents to 94.6 points per game, 42% shooting, and they’re ranked 2nd in the NBA with 7.4 blocks per game. Durant, Ibaka, and Perkins don’t make it easy for opposing teams to get into the paint.

Deficient areas for the Thunder

  • Assists: The Thunder are ranked second to last in assists with 18.1 assists per game, Westbrook is averaging 5.7 assists per game, while no other Thunder player averages more than four assists per game.
  • Turnovers: the Thunder turn the ball over 16.5 times per game, ranked 1st in the NBA. Durant (3.8), (Westbrook 4.1) carry the Thunder’s offense, which means their decisions with the ball are what set the tone for the offense.

Top 5-Thunder players

Kevin Durant – 27 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.4 blocks, 51% shooting on 18.9 FGA, 7.6 free throw attempts

Russell Westbrook – 21.8 points, 5.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 45% shooting on 18.1 FGA

James Harden – 16.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 47% shooting on 9.9 FGA

Serge Ibaka  – 7.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 49% shooting on 6.6 FGA

Kendrick Perkins – 5.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

Game Expectation

The Thunder come into San Antonio as a team on a role as they’ve only lost two of their last 10 games. The Spurs will need big contributions from the starters to the bench for this game.

There are four areas I’ll be observing tonight as I watch this game: 1) Kawhi Leonard vs. Kevin Durant. Leonard has gotten a plethora of matchups with top scorers in the league since his last meeting with Durant, it’ll be interesting to see if Leonard has more of an idea of where Durant likes to shoot and attack from, and how Leonard can prevent him from those areas.

2) Danny Green defending James Harden. Green has been on a roll off the bench, especially on the defensive end where he can guard the shorter guards. As Kevin Martin annihilated the Spurs with 21 points in the first half on Wednesday for the Rockets, Green held him to just eight points in the second half. Harden was a big weapon for the Thunder last time these two met, tonight he’ll meet a much more defensive, confident, and energetic Danny Green.

3) Tony Parker vs. Russell Westbrook – Westbrook and Parker are very similar aside from their age. They’re both speedy, score first guards, and streaky shooters from the outside. If Parker is aggressive on offense, it’ll make Westbrook have to work that much harder on defense and allow the offense to run through Durant and Harden, which would essentially limit one of the Thunder’s weapons in Westbrook.

4) Bench depth: The Spurs’ bench depth has been digging them out of some holes lately and though they didn’t play as well against the Hornets on Wednesday, they still came through at the right time. Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Danny Green, and even James Anderson at times have been a very explosive group. If this group can produce with good numbers tonight, it’ll put even more pressure on the Thunder’s big three to have to win this game on their shoulders.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX and the 2013 NBA Finals.

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