GAMEDAY AT A GLANCE
Spurs (37-28) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (38-29)
When, where: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Oklahoma City
Season series: Tied 1-1
Last meeting: Thunder 90, Spurs 87, Dec. 3, Oklahoma City
Spurs’ last game: Lost to Warriors 110-107, Thursday, Oakland, Calif.
Thunder’s last game: Beat Suns 115-87, Thursday, Oklahoma City
Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 3-7, lost one
Thunder’s last 10 games, streak: 6-4, won one
Spurs’ injury report: Pau Gasol (right shoulder sprain) is questionable for Saturday’s game and Kawhi Leonard (rehabbing quad injury) is out.
Notable: LaMarcus Aldridge’s 17 rebounds in Thursday’s game against the Warriors are the second-most he’s ever had as a Spur. He had 19 boards against Philadelphia in 2015 . . . Kyle Anderson tied his career high in steals with five against the Warriors.
The stretch run of the regular season was a time when the Spurs fine-tuned their game as they drew closer to the start of the playoffs.
But this season has been different for the Silver and Black, who find themselves fighting for a postseason berth with 17 games left on their schedule. It's not a stretch to say that the Spurs are one more losing skid away from missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1996-97 season when Tim Duncan was a senior at Wake Forest.
San Antonio returned to the postseason in Duncan's rookie year, starting a streak of 20 playoff seasons that continued after the Big Fundamental retired in 2016.
Entrenched in third place in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference for most of the season, San Antonio (37-28) has dropped into a virtual tie with Minnesota (38-29) and Oklahoma City (38-29) for the fifth spot after losing nine of its last 12 games. The Spurs were 2-7 in February and slipped to 1-2 in March after a 110-107 road loss to defending league champion Golden State on Thursday.
San Antonio continues its rugged three-game road trip against OKC on Saturday night. The teams have split two games this season, with each winning by three at home.
Once masters at winning close games at crunch time, the Spurs have had uncharacteristic breakdowns on both ends of the court in the fourth quarter since they started their downward spiral. The Silver and Black have had fourth-quarter leads in each of their last six losses.
"Psychologically, it starts to affect you," center Pau Gasol said last Saturday after the Spurs' 116-112 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. "That's why you've got to cut it off and make sure it doesn't snowball anymore."
The Spurs edged Memphis 100-98 two nights later, snapping a four-game home skid. But then came the loss to Golden State. San Antonio led the Warriors 87-78 heading into the fourth quarter and was up 101-93 with 4:44 left. But they couldn't close the deal, losing to Golden State for the fourth straight time.
Veteran point guard Tony Parker said expressed confidence that the Spurs could win at least one game on the current road trip. They play West leader Houston (51-14) on Monday.
"It's going to be a tough one, obviously," Parker said of the trip. "Golden State, OKC, Houston, the three big teams. We're just going to try to keep fighting and try to fight for a spot in the playoffs. Whatever happens, losing Pau now, it's just one of those years that we've had a lot of injuries. We're just going to try to find a way to make the playoffs."
The Spurs are still without All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, who has been limited to nine games this season by a lingering quad injury. The Silver and Black started the season without Leonard and point guard Tony Parker, who missed 19 consecutive games before making his debut Nov. 27.
Leonard, who made his season debut Dec. 12 and played for a month before being shut down again, told reporters Wednesday that he expects to be back "soon." He did not give a timetable for his return.
Gasol, who missed the game against Golden State with a sprained right shoulder, is listed as questionable for Saturday night's meeting with the Thunder.
OKC point guard Russell Westbrook, last year's NBA MVP, just missed recording a triple-double in the Thunder's 90-87 home victory over the Spurs on Dec. 3, finishing with 22 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. San Antonio played without leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge and Parker.
Up next for the Spurs after Saturday's game: at Houston, Monday, 7 p.m.
Next home game for the Spurs: vs. Memphis, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.