Spurs vs Thunder – NBA Pick for March 10th
The Spurs are typically one of the league’s stalwarts, but they’ve hit a rare rough patch. San Antonio still has a 37-28 record on the season, but they’re actually at risk of falling out of the playoff picture for the first time in over 20 years. The Spurs currently occupy the No. 5 seed in the conference, just a game-and-a-half up on Denver and Utah, who have the same record yet sit on the outside looking in.
The Spurs are just 3-7 over their last 10 games, a span that includes losses to other playoff hopefuls in the Nuggets (twice), Jazz and Pelicans. San Antonio has also lost to the Warriors twice in that stretch, but there’s obviously no shame in that.
San Antonio is essentially in limbo until Kawhi Leonard comes back. The franchise cornerstone has been limited to just 9 games all year thanks to a quad injury and missing him obviously caps this team’s ultimate upside. Gregg Popovich has still done a fine job with what he’s had to play with, but it’s clear they don’t hold a candle to Golden State or Houston as currently constructed.
LaMarcus Aldridge has done a wonderful job filling in for Kawhi as the team’s top option offensively. LMA had a huge night against the Warriors last time out, finishing with 30 points and 17 rebounds in Oakland. It wasn’t enough to pull out the victory, but San Antonio kept the game competitive throughout and only lost by 3 in the end.
Pau Gasol is officially listed as questionable after missing the last game with a shoulder problem. If he’s out, Davis Bertans is a likely candidate to start in his place.
Tonight’s game in Oklahoma City has massive postseason implications. The Thunder have slipped to the No. 7 spot in the conference, though they have one more win and one more loss than the Spurs. San Antonio, OKC and Minnesota are essentially tied at this point, so whoever wins tonight’s game will get a leg up in the meantime.
The Thunder picked up a win they had to have last time out in disposing of Phoenix, 115-87. They’ll have to feast on teams like Phoenix, as the rest of their schedule isn’t particularly favorable. They do get a couple of cupcake matchups with the Kings and Hawks after tonight’s game, but they’ll also have to tangle with the Clippers, Raptors, Celtics, Blazers, Spurs again, Nuggets, Pelicans, Warriors and Rockets before the season is out.
The Thunder have struggled defensively since Andre Roberson went down, and Billy Donovan tried to help alleviate those concerns by promoting Corey Brewer into the starting lineup against the Suns. Brewer looked right at home, scoring 17 points along with 4 rebounds in 28 minutes of action.
Brewer isn’t going to help a ton defensively, but he plays with good energy and should help inject some pace into a team that gets bogged down in the half court far too often.
The Spurs have done a solid job of keeping Russell Westbrook in check, which is obviously no easy task. Over their 2 previous meetings this season, Westbrook has averaged just 18.5 points per game on dismal 31% shooting from the floor. He’s also contributed 9.5 assists and 9 rebounds but keeping Westbrook from scoring at will is the key to stifling OKC.
The Spurs have just had a way of keeping games close, even if they haven’t resulted in enough victories of late. San Antonio’s last 4 losses have come by an average of just 3.75 points. With the Thunder favored by 4 ½ tonight, I’m liking San Antonio’s chances of covering, if not winning outright.
OKC clearly has more on-paper talent at this point, but they still haven’t quite been able to put everything together. We’ve seen flashes of their potential at times, but they have a way of playing down to their competition, for some reason. I like San Antonio in this spot.
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