It’s a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals on Thursday night as Oklahoma City opens defense of its conference crown and begins life without James Harden as they visit San Antonio. It’s the second of a back-to-back for the Spurs, who opened Wednesday.
The Thunder traded Harden to Houston the eve of the season because they couldn’t agree on a contract extension and OKC wasn’t willing to pay the luxury tax to give Harden, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, a max deal. OKC got Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb and some future draft picks. Most believe the team might take a small immediate step back but that it was an impressive haul overall.
The Spurs played in New Orleans on Wednesday night without Manu Ginobili as he has a back issue. He will be reevaluated on Thursday but is questionable at best for this game. Ginobili has dealt with back spasms throughout his career, and while the Spurs were downplaying Manu’s absence, he could be dealing with something more serious than previously reported. Danny Green, Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard should all see a boost in minutes with Ginobili sidelined.
While the Spurs were beaten solidly in the West Finals, they won the regular season series 2-1 with OKC and haven’t lost a regular season series against Oklahoma City since the 1996-97 season. In the first meeting San Antonio fell to the Thunder, 96-108, at Oklahoma City on 1/8. The Silver and Black won the second matchup 107-96 vs. Oklahoma City at the AT&T Center on 2/4. In the rubber match game, the Silver and Black won 114-105 at Oklahoma City on 3/16. Ginobili missed all three games.
For the season series: Tony Parker averaged 23.7 points and 7.6 assists in three games and Tim Duncan averaged 13.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.33 blocks. The Thunder’s Kevin Durant averaged 22.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists and Russell Westbrook averaged 22.3 points, 5.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds in three games.
Durant stands just 22 points shy of the 10,000 point scoring benchmark. After amassing 9,978 career points through his first five NBA seasons, Durant is on pace become the 15th fastest player in NBA history to reach the 10,000 point plateau. Durant is set to become the sixth player in all-time franchise history to cross the 10,000 point barrier.
With a 103.1 point per game scoring average last season, the Thunder finished behind only the Denver Nuggets (104.1 ppg) and the Spurs (103.6 ppg) in the quest to become the NBA’s highest scoring team. During the 2011-12 season, the Thunder led the NBA in free throw shooting accuracy (80.6%) while ranking third in field goal shooting accuracy (47.1%). OKC finished the year a perfect 18-0 when shooting 50.0% or better from the field.
San Antonio has won four consecutive games at home against Oklahoma City and lead the all-time series 82-63, while having a 53-20 advantage in the Alamo City.
Sportsbet trends: Thunder are 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings. Over is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings in San Antonio. Over is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings. Favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings. Home team is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings.