Preview and Prediction: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The San Antonio Spurs (14-18) have won the first two games of their three-game homestand. Tonight, the Spurs will attempt to complete the sweep when they take on the surging Oklahoma City Thunder (18-15). The Thunder have won seven of their previous eight contests, including their last three games. In those three wins, OKC has impressive victories over the Dallas Mavericks and in Toronto against the Raptors.

The Spurs aren’t quite as hot as the Thunder but they’re 7-4 in their last 11 games, which is somewhat impressive considering they had lost eight straight games at one point this season.

Spurs and Thunder Battle for Playoff Positioning

A few years ago, San Antonio and Oklahoma City would be in the running for a top seed in the Western Conference. This year, the Thunder are the seventh seed and the Spurs are the eighth seed.

As it stands, the Thunder are 3.5 games up on the Spurs and also three games behind the Utah Jazz for the sixth seed. The Spurs, on the other hand, are 1.5 games ahead of the ninth seeded Portland Trail Blazers.

Daunting Upcoming Schedule for the Spurs

After tonight’s game, the Spurs play six straight difficult contests. First, it’s a home-and-home with the Milwaukee Bucks. After that, San Antonio has a four-game road trip with stops in Boston, Memphis, Toronto and Miami. The only game the Spurs may be favored in is the game in Memphis, although the Grizzlies are playing relatively well as of late — winning seven of their previous 12 outings.

That stretch makes the game against the Thunder even more important. While OKC will be challenging, the Spurs can’t afford a loss heading into that six-game stretch that promises to be a bumpy ride.

Spurs vs. Thunder – Key Matchup

Coming out of the gates, the Spurs will need to be smart about the matchups. LaMarcus Aldridge will defend Steven Adams and Trey Lyles will guard Danilo Gallinari — both of those matchups are straight forward. Where it gets tricky is out on the perimeter. The best bet is for Dejounte Murray to defend Chris Paul, DeMar DeRozan to defend Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Bryn Forbes to guard Terrance Ferguson.

While DeRozan will have his hands full with Gilgeous-Alexander, the Spurs need to keep Forbes from being exploited. Last time these two teams played, Forbes started off on Gilgeous-Alexander and that got ugly fast.

This game is screaming for head coach Gregg Popovich to play Murray alongside Derrick White in order to match up defensively. We’ll see if he goes with that little-used alignment.

Prediction – Spurs vs. Thunder

Oddsmakers have the Spurs favored by two points. I’ll predict the Spurs pulling out a close one at the end.

San Antonio Spurs – 117
Oklahoma City Thunder – 114