Preview and Prediction: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder
The San Antonio Spurs (24-31) are looking to end the 2020 Rodeo Road Trip with their third straight win after beginning the trek with five consecutive defeats. Tonight, the Spurs are playing the Oklahoma City Thunder (34-22) — the same team San Antonio beat to start their current winning streak.
In that game, the Spurs got the win in Oklahoma City despite playing without DeMar DeRozan. Dejounte Murray played well on both ends, finishing with 25 points, nine rebounds and three assists. LaMarcus Aldridge also played really well, totally 25 points, 14 rebounds and three assists. Patty Mills had 20 points off the bench, while Derrick White chipped in with 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds.
While All-Star Chris Paul was able to go for 31 points and seven assists in the last meeting, the Spurs held Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder under their season averages.
Dejounte Murray is Playing Extremely Well for the Spurs
In his last four games, Murray is playing great basketball. In that stretch, he’s averaging 19.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Murray is also shooting 60.0% from the floor and has hit 5-of-7 three-pointers and 14-of-15 free throws. He also had only two turnovers total in those four outings.
As good as his number are over his last four games, they don’t tell the whole story about his improvement. His decision-making, passing and all-around smart play has been impressive. He looks like a real point guard now. On top of that, his defense is also much improved and he’s much more disciplined on that end.
The Thunder are the NBA’s Clutchest Team
In clutch situations, OKC has been fantastic this season. They outscore opponents by more than 27 points per 100 possessions in the last five minutes of games in which neither team is leading by more than five points. Paul, specifically, has been lights out in those situations.
On top of being the league’s clutchest team, the Thunder also have the most effective lineup in the NBA. The fivesome of Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander, Schroder, Gallinari and Steven Adams outscore opponents by more than 30 points per 100 possessions.
Dejounte Murray and Derrick White Coexisting
To close out their last two wins, head coach Gregg Popovich has gone with Murray and White on the court down the stretch. That’s a duo Spurs fans have waited all season to see. While Popovich has been reluctant to go with it, perhaps that will change after a pair of wins in which the Spurs played smart, tough basketball late into the fourth quarter.
Considering that the Spurs have made a habit out of collapsing in the fourth quarter — on both ends of the court — that’s been a notable difference that should be impossible to ignore.
Prediction: Spurs at Thunder
The Spurs haven’t dealt with success well this season. Additionally, the Thunder will be ready to play after the Spurs beat them in Oklahoma City right before the All-Star break. For those two reasons, I see the Thunder coming out on top this game.
Oklahoma City Thunder – 115
San Antonio Spurs – 109