The Spurs are coming off two fantastic wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks as they continue to maintain their hot start to the NBA season. Playing against the Thunder will be yet another measuring stick to see how the Spurs fare against a very young squad like the Thunder, a team they beat earlier this season, 117-104.
To discuss tonight's matchup, I turn to fellow NBA blogger here at Bloguin Rob Kelley from Thunder Ballers, the best Thunder site on the Internet. Seriously you need to check it out!
In this Q&A, Rob talks about the expectations on Oklahoma City, what the Thunder should do to get the win over the Spurs, his key matchups and more. To read the Q&A I did with Rob, click HERE to visit Thunder Ballers.
Jeff: I have to admit, I came into the season expecting the Thunder to be right there with the Spurs and Lakers. I know they have a solid record (23-11) and lead their division but it just seems the Thunder haven't really gotten over that hump to be a power in the Western Conference. Is it simply that this team is still too young?
Rob: I think to some extent, the expectations are a little too high, including my own. People have to remember that yes, this is a very young team, and that they were just the 8th seed in the Western Conference last season. While they gave the Lakers quite a scare in the first round, this team still has room for improvement. The fact that they currently hold the 4th seed and have battled a few injuries is definitely a step in the right direction.
Do you feel the Thunder need more veteran leadership or should Kevin Durant be the one to be more vocal with his teammates?
I think that Kevin Durant is a great leader, but that Russell Westbrook has also stepped up his game in a huge way. Adding a veteran would be ideal, but I don't see this team making many - if any - moves by the trade deadline. They want to continue to grow as a team together.
James Harden is making quite the case for Sixth Man of the Year. Aside from his glorious beard, what has been his most significant growth this year as a player?
Ha! That beard is coming in quite nicely! I think that Harden is learning his role this season. Coming out of Arizona State as the third overall pick, many people expected him to be an immediate starter. I feel that he will be a starter one day, but for now, he is developing into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate and is a key piece of the puzzle for this team going forward.
Let's talk about the game tonight. The Thunder have given the Spurs some trouble in past seasons. However, this isn't your grind-it-out Spurs team anymore and will run. What should the Thunder's game plan be heading into tonight's contest?
This is such a different Spurs team in so many ways, it is almost tough to come up with a game plan. When these two teams last played in November, it was all about the backcourt for San Antonio. (Tony) Parker and (Manu) Ginobili combined for 45 points, while (Richard) Jefferson and (Matt) Bonner had 18 and 21 respectively. Bonner hit all seven of his 3-pointers, so OKC cannot allow him to sit behind the line and wait for Parker and Ginobili to drive and dish.
What matchup will you tell Spurs and Thunder fans to watch and what's your prediction?
I'm looking forward to watching (Russell) Westbrook and Parker. Any time you get to watch two elite point guards play, it is something worth watching. I love to watch great ball distribution. The fact that the Spurs have an extra day off certainly will help them, but I feel that the Thunder are ready for their signature win of the 2010-2011 season. It comes against San Antonio tonight!