NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, April 3rd (All times Eastern)
San Antonio Spurs (59-16) at Oklahoma City Thunder (54-19), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The San Antonio Spurs face their stiffest challenge during this recent amazing run Thursday night when they visit Chesapeake Energy Arena to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Spurs have won a franchise-best 19 straight games, which is also the longest winning streak this season in the NBA. With a win on Thursday, San Antonio would tie for the fourth-longest streak in league history.
But, this will be the tallest order for the Spurs, who haven't lost since Feb. 21 in Phoenix and haven't lost on the road in their seven outings.
The Thunder are not only second in the Western Conference, four games behind the Spurs, but they are 3-0 this season against San Antonio. Oklahoma City has taken three straight as the host in this series.
The Spurs know they'll have to stop Kevin Durant, the presumptive NBA MVP who has at least 25 points in 38 straight games.
On Wednesday, the Spurs clinched their third straight Southwest Division title with a 111-90 home victory over the Golden State Warriors. It was the Spurs sixth division title since realignment before the 2004-05 season.
"We've come along," said Tim Duncan. "We've always used these regular-season 82 games to turn our team into the kind of team we want it to be. We've done just that, added some pieces, but incorporated them really well and our system's working."
Against the Warriors, Tony Parker led the way with 18 points. Duncan registered 15 points and eight rebounds, and Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili each scored 13 for the Spurs. Marco Belinelli had 12 and Kawhi Leonard 11 for San Antonio.
The Spurs shot 53 percent against Golden State and had 11 players log over 10 minutes.
The Thunder have won two in a row and six of their last seven. They own a 6 1/2 game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers in the Northwest Division, but face a tough stretch on the horizon.
OKC embarks on a four-game road trip, starting Friday in Houston. The Thunder play six of their last eight away from home and face such top-flight teams as the Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers.
The Thunder haven't played since a 116-96 home win over the Utah Jazz on Sunday. That has left plenty of practice time, but also a need for rest for a team that plays nine games over the final 14 days of the season.
"We just want to work on the things that we feel are important," head coach Scott Brooks said after practice on Monday. "We're not worried about the back- to-backs, we're worried about having a good practice today and we did. Guys really got after it. The energy was great and the attention to detail was really good."
Against the Jazz, Durant poured in a game-high 31 points to go along with nine assists. His streak of 25-plus is the highest in the league since Michael Jordan recorded 40 consecutive games scoring over 25.
Russell Westbrook added 19 points and Serge Ibaka chipped in 17 points with six rebounds for the Thunder, who have won three straight at home. Caron Butler contributed 15 points off the bench, going 5-for-5 from beyond the arc.
The Thunder have four in a row against the Spurs and four of their last five at home against the Spurs. The franchise hasn't swept a season series against the Spurs since the 1996-97 campaign when the team was the Seattle Supersonics.
04/03 10:23:59 ET