Oklahoma City at San Antonio
Time: 7 PM (CT) ESPN
Spread: OKC -1.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The San Antonio Spurs have been staying afloat without its best player, MVP-caliber forward Kawhi Leonard, who has yet to play in the 2017-18 season as he has nursed a quad injury.
Gregg Popovich said on Nov 14, that they expect Leonard back “sooner rather than later,” but that clearly fails to establish any sort of timetable on his return. It seems unlikely Leonard returns much before December, based on statements he is behind Tony Parker in rehab progress. The Spurs have still gone 9-6 without Leonard and are just 1.5-point underdogs to Oklahoma City on ESPN Friday night. The over/under is set low at 197.
San Antonio holds opponents to a fourth-best mark of just 98.9 points per game while scoring 101.5 (no. 25) itself. The Spurs also rank No. 7 in the NBA in rebounding while maintaining another high-pass, high-assist offense (No. 9, 22.9 per game).
The Spurs are operating with something of a talent deficit after losing both Leonard to injury and key reserve Jontathon Simmons to free agency (Orlando). In addition, the Spurs lost an emergent Dewayne Dedmon what now what appears to be the worst possible time as the center is breaking out as an Atlanta Hawk. The Spurs have more or less handed the keys to both Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray, and the pairing has combined to produce 17.3 points and 6.6 assists per game between them.
Kyle Anderson has settled into a role similar to what Boris Diaw did, and he is averaging eight points and six rebounds per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. Pau Gasol has declined but remains a viable rotation big with 10 points and eight rebounds per game, inanition to blocking 1.27 shots per contest. The Spurs clearly need Leonard back, but the way Gregg Popovich gets eight points from Manu Ginobili and five or more from 10 players is uncanny. The Spurs are not a high scoring team, but its defense is so sound that San Antonio can continue to play .600-.650 ball even without its MVP.
Oklahoma City is 7-7 and has won its past three contests, with victories over the L.A. Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, and Chicago Bulls. The Thunder now are really getting rolling offensively, and have averaged 108 points per game over its win streak. Paul George has led the team in scoring at 21.9 points per game, while also grabbing six boards, dishing 2.4 assists and coming up with 2.36 steals per game. Russell Westbrook has reinvented himself with another high scoring isolation player alongside him in Carmelo Anthony.
Westbrook is averaging 20.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 9.6 assists per game while Melo tallies 20 points and six rebounds in 32 minutes a night. Steven Adams has been a huge beneficiary in the talent increase around him, with 12.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.82 blocks/steals per game in 30 minutes a night. Raymond Felton has been a nice fit off the bench, and the Thunder still have yet to really get a lot of Patrick Patterson, who was signed before Anthony’s talents were in the picture. He may be the odd man out. Andre Roberson continues to provide a steady three and D presence for 22 minutes a game, and while he scarcely makes a statistical dent, his tenacious man-on-man defense is part of OKC’s identity.
That identity is built on Adams’ toughness as much as the high scoring of its big three. The Thunder could be formidable threats at playoff time with continued gelling from its superstars and better establishment of its nascent role players–that is to say, Patterson could prove vital as another stretch-4, or a replacement in the lineup should Anthony or George go down for an extended period of time.