Recent setbacks forgotten as Thunder face Spurs
Both Oklahoma City and San Antonio have had their share of ups and downs this season, but those difficulties will be set aside when the Spurs host the Thunder on Thursday in one of the NBA's marquee matchups.
The meeting is the first of three this season for the teams, who will play again on Saturday night in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder head to the Alamo City after 119-117 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook missed a pair of 3-point attempts in the final seconds that could have given the Thunder the lead or the win.
The loss was Oklahoma City's second straight, both of them home to sub-.500 opposition.
Paul George scored 27 points to lead the Thunder while Westbrook had 25 points and 16 assist. Steven Adams added 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Terrance Ferguson scored 14 points for Oklahoma City. The Thunder shot 50.6 percent from the floor.
"We did some really good things offensively (Tuesday)," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after the loss. "We moved the ball, we generated some good looks, And I think a lot of the shooting percentages, both from the field and from the 3-point line, were a by-product of some good ball movement."
The Thunder lost reserve center Nerlens Noel in the third quarter after he banged his head on the floor following a collision while trying to defend Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins on a dunk attempt. He was placed in the NBA's concussion protocol after spending the night in the hospital.
"It was just one of those crazy plays that happen," Adams said about the Noel injury. "Fortunately, they responded quite quickly, the medical staff and whatnot, so it was really good. I felt like it was in the best hands at the time, which is good."
San Antonio has been on top of its game of late, but it threw in a real clunker on Wednesday in a 96-86 road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Spurs scored just 31 points in the first half, tying their season low for a half, made a season-worst 30 shots and recorded a season-low 14 assists in the defeat.
Marco Belinelli and Bryn Forbes led the Spurs with 14 points each. LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills scored 13 apiece. Derrick White hit for 12 for the San Antonio, which also got 12 rebounds from Pau Gasol in the loss.
San Antonio played without forward Rudy Gay, who missed his second consecutive game with a wrist injury. Gay is not expected to play on Thursday. The Spurs are 1-6 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
Despite the setback to Grizzlies, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knows he has a mature group that is beginning to jell.
"Our guys have been really good about figuring out how we want to play," Popovich said prior to the Wednesday game. "The chemistry has been good. Slowly they are feeling responsible to each other and how each other fits on the court. We've gotten better as the year has progressed."
The Spurs have won 13 of their past 17 games overall, but they are just 7-13 on the road after the defeat at Memphis.
"We'll have those nights where we look horrible, but they stuck together -- which is a real testament to their character," Popovich said. "They just continue to figure it out."
The Spurs own a 92-75 all-time advantage over Oklahoma City, including a 61-23 edge (including a six-game win streak) in games played in San Antonio.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 10, 2019