San Antonio Spurs: Showdown With Oklahoma City Thunder Potential Conference Finals Preview

By Ryan Heckman
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the stars come out to play. In a matchup that could wind up being a Western Conference Finals preview, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder face off at Chesapeake Energy Arena sporting two very different styles.

Both the Spurs and Thunder have had phenomenal seasons and currently sit first and second in the West respectively. Dealing with losses in their own way, the teams haven’t missed a beat.

The Thunder traded sixth man standout James Harden in the off season to the Houston Rockets, and several wondered what would come of the Thunder’s record this year. As it turns out, Harden’s absence just meant more points for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook among others.

Oklahoma City never blinked an eye at the thought of having a down year. Both Durant and Westbrook continue to be two of the most feared scorers in the league and spell trouble for just about any team in the NBA.

The Spurs on the other hand, have had a different kind of gap to fill this season. All three of their big names have either been beat up or rested by coach Gregg Popovich at some point. Tim Duncan may be the only healthy one to play tonight while Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are both dealing with injuries. Parker’s status was up in the air against the Orlando Magic yesterday, but he still did not play due to soreness in his ankle. Ginobili will not play tonight due to a hamstring injury.

Even without two of their top players, the Spurs continue to win behind Popovich’s scheme settling into his younger guys. Kawhi Leonard has been one of the brighter spots for the Spurs this season and has played very well on both sides of the ball. He leads the team in steals with 1.7 per game and is also shooting a shade under 50% from the field. It seems no matter who is on the court for the Spurs that they will always have the upper hand due to every single player buying into the system and doing their job.

Tonight those younger guys are going to have quite a task in guarding Durant and Westbrook. Yet, as big of a task as it is, San Antonio has proved they are up to it with how they’ve played defense this year allowing the ninth fewest points per game in the league. Two contradicting styles will square off in Oklahoma City tonight. Which one will prevail?

Ryan Heckman is a Minnesota Timberwolves writer and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google

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