9:30 PM ET, April 4, 2013
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
With Nick Collison
With four days off, the Oklahoma City Thunder have had plenty of time to prepare for one of their biggest games of the season.
While the San Antonio Spurs won't be quite as fresh, they should have mostly everyone available.
The Thunder try to inch closer to catching the Western Conference-leading Spurs as these powerhouses square off Thursday night in Oklahoma.
After winning four of five, Oklahoma City (54-20) finds itself 1 1/2 games behind San Antonio with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season. The well-rested Thunder know winning this game could go a long way in their quest for the West's No. 1 seed, especially considering they would lose the season series if the Spurs win.
"To get four days off is going to help your body and help your mind, just to give you some physical and mental rest is always good," said coach Scott Brooks, whose team hasn't played since winning 109-99 at Milwaukee on Saturday.
"We know we're playing one of the best teams in the league, and we're going to focus on playing well against them. There's no doubt they challenge you in a lot of different ways, but it's good for us. It's always good to play against the best teams down the stretch."
Oklahoma City has outscored the Spurs (56-19) by an average of 12.0 points in taking four straight home matchups, including three victories in last season's conference finals. The Thunder won 107-93 on Dec. 17 behind Serge Ibaka's 25 points and season high-tying 17 rebounds, but that came between a pair of losses at San Antonio.
"I don't look at this next game like it's a must win," said Kevin Martin, who scored 17 points Saturday. "It's a game that we want to win, we want to play well."
While Manu Ginobili remains sidelined due to a hamstring injury, the Spurs could otherwise be at full strength. After sitting out Wednesday's 98-84 win over Orlando, Tony Parker (ankle), Kawhi Leonard (knee) and DeJuan Blair (stomach virus) are all likely to be available.
With those key pieces out, Danny Green stepped up to score 20 points and Gary Neal added 16 off the bench. The Spurs, who limited the Magic to 38.9 percent shooting, improved to 32-2 when holding opponents under 43.5.
After missing Monday's 92-90 loss at Memphis with a sore knee, Tim Duncan returned but played just 14 minutes and had five points.
"We wanted to jump on them and give some of our guys a rest," Green said. "It's always good to get the win first. The rest will hopefully help the team come (Thursday). Guys are sore and banged up a little bit. So hopefully they come out fresh."
San Antonio has lost its only three road games this month and also has dropped three straight when playing the second of games on back-to-back days.
Martin scored 20 in the Dec. 17 win but had 15 and nine, respectively, in the two losses at San Antonio.
Durant has averaged 22.7 points against the Spurs this season -- easily his fewest against any West opponent and 5.6 below his NBA-leading mark. He scored 36 in Friday's 101-93 loss at Minnesota, then 30 against the Bucks.
Westbrook recorded his first triple-double of the season Saturday with 23 points, a season best-tying 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He's shot 34.8 percent in this season series.
Last 5 Games
Team Stat Leaders
NEXT LEVEL: Both the Thunder and the Spurs have more than 96 possessions per 48 minutes, which rank seventh and eighth, respectively. In their two wins, the Spurs were able to slow the pace and averaged 92.7 possessions per 48 minutes this season compared to 95.7 in their only loss.
NEXT LEVEL: Manu Ginobili has missed 15 games this season to various ailments. He is slated to miss three-to-four weeks with a hamstring injury. Ginobili has not had much of an impact for the Spurs this season either offensively or defensively. If anything, the Spurs have been more efficient on both ends with Ginobili off the court. Ginobili averaged a 13.8 net rating while on the court in the past two seasons.[+]
Spurs This Season - Manu Ginobili On/Off Court
NEXT LEVEL: Serge Ibaka was the Thunder's top scorer with 25 points on December 17th victory over the Spurs, tied for his second-highest output this season. Ibaka, who averages 4.6 FGA inside 10 feet, attempted nine shots from this distance and made five. In the two losses, he had five total attempts from inside 10 feet and made three.
NEXT LEVEL: Russell Westbrook's 32.1 usage percentage ranks second to Carmelo Anthony (min five games played). In the two losses against the Spurs, Westbrook averaged 37.4 usage percentage and 26.5 in the Thunder's lone win. In all three games, he attempted more shots than Kevin Durant despite playing less minutes. The Thunder are 19-5 when Westbrook's usage percentage is less than 30.0 percent.[+]
Russell Westbrook Offense - Vs Spurs, This Season
ESPN Stats & Information