Most people expected the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder to be elite teams this year, dominant squads that would probably earn top-four seeds in the Western Conference.
However, the 37-28 Spurs and 38-29 Thunder have both disappointed this season for different reasons and will face each other today (8:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC).
San Antonio has been ravaged by injury problems this year. Star forward Kawhi Leonard has missed all but nine games, and several other key contributors have also missed significant time. How, that doesn’t excuse the Spurs’ wretched play as of late – the squad has lost nine of its last 12 games, blowing several fourth quarter leads in the process.
Oklahoma City has gone back and forth between being an offensive-minded and defensive-minded team this season. Recently, the Thunder have struggled on the defensive end due to the season-ending injury of shutdown defender Andre Roberson.
What follows is our preview’s analysis of the cornerstone points that may define which way this game is decided, before ultimately concluding with our San Antonio Spurs vs Oklahoma City Thunder predictions and betting picks.
Will Rudy Gay Step Up With Big Scoring Game From Wing?
Oklahoma City’s top wing scorer, Paul George, is also the team’s top perimeter defender now that Andre Roberson is injured and out for the year. George takes on the task of guarding the opposing team’s best wing scorer, and he usually does it pretty well.
However, George only has a certain amount of energy. He can’t go all-out on both ends of the floor of all of his minutes.
Enter Rudy Gay, the Spurs’ top scorer on the wing with Kawhi Leonard still out. In his last four games, the veteran forward has averaged 12.8 points in 20 minutes per game with a strong 58.2 true shooting percentage. San Antonio has brought him back slowly from his heel injury, hence the low minutes.
San Antonio needs Gay to take on a higher workload both in playing time and shots, as he’s the only guy on the wing who can really force Paul George to bring his A-game on both ends of the floor.
Can Thunder Assert Dominance On Glass?
San Antonio is missing Pau Gasol in this game, which is a blow to the team’s already weak big man depth. LaMarcus Aldridge and Joffrey Lauvergne are the only healthy traditional post players on the active roster, while Davis Bertans, Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gay will probably get some minutes at the 4 position.
Because of this, Oklahoma City’s combination of size, strength and athleticism should be a major advantage for it against San Antonio on the glass. The Thunder are the second-best team in the league in rebounding percentage.
The Spurs do rank a solid seventh in that category, but they have no Gasol and have been sliding in that area recently. San Antonio is just 21st in rebound percentage in the last month.
It won’t be easy for the Spurs to hang with Steven Adams, Russell Westbrook and Jerami Grant on the boards if the Thunder players play in an aggressive and motivated fashion.
Will Oklahoma City Step Up Three-Point Defense?
The Thunder have been a disaster defending the perimeter in their last 10 games. In that stretch, OKC opponents have made a league-high 13.2 three-pointers per game on a 41.1 percent success rate, which is the third-highest mark allowed in that span. Their ineptitude has come against good shooting and bad shooting teams alike.
Even without Andre Roberson, the Thunder have the athletes and defenders to do better against the Spurs than they have shown recently. Thankfully for OKC, the Spurs are one of the worst outside shooting teams in the league and haven’t made 10 three-pointers in a game in over a month.
However, the Spurs still move the ball really well and are capable of punishing lazy defense. Can the Thunder avoid that laziness?
Our Preview’s San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder Betting Picks & Predictions
The Spurs just don’t have enough perimeter creativity to make Russell Westbrook and Paul George work hard enough on defense. Those two will play enough defense to stymie San Antonio’s attack.
Also, Steven Adams of the Thunder is a very good defender for LaMarcus Aldridge, who is carrying the Spurs’ offense right now. Aldridge will have to work for all of his baskets inside. Here are the Spurs vs OKC predictions and picks for this preview:
- The Thunder are estimated to win this game by 4.5 points by all major USA betting outlets. Place your bets with the Thunder -4.5pts @ best odds of -110 with 5Dimes.
- OKC’s length on defense and the glass will be problematic for the Spurs. San Antonio will also slow the game way down out of fear of the Thunder getting a bunch of fast breaks. Your best decision is to pick the under 211pts @ -115 with Bovada. The other sportsbooks have a lower over / under than 211.