Spurs (25-18) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (25-16)
When, where: Saturday, 7 p.m., Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City
Last season: Tied 2-2
All-time series record: Spurs lead 93-75
Season series: Spurs lead 1-0
Last meeting: Spurs 154, Thunder 147, 2 OT, Thursday, AT&T Center
Spurs' last game: Beat Thunder 154-147, 2 OT, Thursday, AT&T Center
Thunder's last game: Lost to Spurs 154-147, 2 OT, Thursday, AT&T Center
Spurs' last 10 games/streak: 7-3, won one
Thunder's last 10 games/streak: 4-6, lost three
Spurs' injury/inactive report: Forward Rudy Gay (sprained left wrist), out; Chimezie Metu (G League assignment), out; forward Ben Moore (G League assignment); Dejounte Murray (torn right anterior cruciate ligament), out; Lonnie Walker IV (G League assignment), out.
Thunder's injury/inactive report: Center Steven Adams (left ankle), day-to-day; guard Alex Abrines (personal), out; forward Nerlens Noel (concussion protocol), out; guard Andre Roberson (left patellar tendon), out.
Notable: The Spurs' win over OKC on Thursday night moved coach Gregg Popovich past Jerry Sloan for No. 3 on the NBA's all-time list for regular-season wins with 1,222. Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkins (1,332) are No. 1 and No. 2. Sloan (1,221) and Pat Riley (1,210) round out the top five. Popovich already owns the NBA record for the most victories with one franchise . . . The only player in NBA history to score more than 56 points at an older age than 33-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge was Kobe Bryant, who was 37 when he went off for 60 points in his last game on April 13, 2016 . . . Aldridge's 56-point gem against OKC on Thursday night is the third-highest scoring total for a Spurs player in franchise history. David Robinson scored 71 points in 1994 and George Gervin finished with 63 in 1978 . . . The Silver and Black were unconscious from the three-point line against OKC, nailing 16 of 19 attempts (84.2 percent). That eclipsed the NBA record of 82.4 percent (14-17) set by the Chicago Bulls in 2005 for any team attempting at least 15 three-pointers . . . The Spurs knocked down their first 14 shots from beyond the arc before Derrick White missed one. San Antonio's 14 made three-pointers to start the game were the most in the NBA in the past 20 seasons . . . The Silver and Black's next home game will be against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. The game will mark former Spurs point guard Tony Parker's first appearance at the AT&T Center since he signed with the Hornets as an unrestricted free agent in July.
Only minutes after the Spurs’ stirring 154-147 double-overtime win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, the game was being called an instant classic. Nobody who watched the thriller would have disagreed.
For a game in the middle of the NBA regular season, when most sports fans are focused on the NFL playoffs, the drama that unfolded on the AT&T Center floor was as good as it gets in sports.
There’s still a lot more basketball to play, but the first San Antonio-OKC meeting of the season already is being called the league’s game of the year. It’s not even mid-January, but the Spurs and Thunder went after each other like it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
“I saw it from both teams,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, noting the grit and intensity of the players. “This is one of those things where people will say we won the game and they lost the game, or we had more energy, or we did this, or we did that. But you know that’s not true. Both teams competed as best they possibly could. It was a great game to be a part of.”
Because of the quirky NBA schedule, the Spurs (25-18) and Thunder (25-16) get to do it all over again Saturday night – this time in OKC. The game is one of those back-to-backs between the same teams, with one day of rest in between.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich didn’t mince words when he was asked about back-to-back rematches before the Silver and Black played the first of two games in three nights against the Denver Nuggets in late December.
“I hate ‘em,” Popovich said. “I think they’re awful. We have six of them this year. Some teams have one or two. I hate ‘em. You do that in the playoffs. You don’t do that now.”
The Spurs beat Denver 111-103 at the AT&T Center in their first meeting, but fell to the Nuggets 102-99 in the Mile High City two nights later.
For the record, Denver coach Michael Malone said he didn’t like playing the same team in back-to-back games, either.
“I agree with Pop,” Malone said. “For me, obviously, it is like the playoffs because you have a day in between and you go back and look at the film, and see what you did well, what you didn’t do well. Now it becomes a game of adjustments. That’s the nature of the playoffs and then to do it in late December is the way the schedule broke this year.”
All that is moot, of course. In a perfect basketball world, San Antonio and OKC would have squared off again in a month. But, as Popovich has said many times, you don’t dwell on the schedule. You just play it.
So, what will the Spurs and the Thunder do for an encore after Thursday night’s epic thriller? It’s a tough act to follow, to say the least.
For starters, what are the odds of the Spurs coming anywhere close to matching their scintillating performance at the three-point line? The Silver and Black nailed 16 of 19 attempts from beyond the arc and made their first 14. That’s right, their first 14!
San Antonio’s three-point percentage (84.2) was the best in NBA history by a team attempting at least 15 three-pointers. The 14 consecutive three-pointers the Spurs made from the opening tipoff until their first miss in the third quarter were the most by an NBA team to start a game in the last 20 seasons.
In the end, the night belonged to Spurs All-NBA forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored a career-high 56 points and moved to third on San Antonio’s all-time single-game scoring list. David Robinson went off for 71 points 1994, and George Gervin scored 63 in 1978. Aldridge is the first Spur to score 50+ points since Tony Parker had 55 against the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2008.
Aldridge also finished with nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
“He’s been a beast all year long,” Popovich said of Aldridge. “He anchors us on both ends of the floor. He did it last year and he’s doing it this year, too. He’s been fantastic and, obviously, he had a great night.”
Aldridge hit 20 of 33 shots, all from two-point range, and made all 16 of his free-throw attempts.
“Late in the game – I guess I had 40-something – and they were doubling and I spun to the baseline, stepped back, and when that went in I was like, ‘Oh, this is one of those nights where it just feels good out there.’”
Fast-improving point guard Derrick White scored a career-high 23 points for the Spurs and Marco Belinelli, who was 5 for 5 from the three-point line, finished with 19.
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, synonymous with the triple-double, was spectacular in defeat. He recorded a triple-double against the Spurs, finishing with 24 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 24 assists.
Westbrook is one of only three players in NBA history to finish a game with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 20 assists in a game more than once. Westbrook has done it twice, and Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson did it three times each.
San Antonio led by 16 in the first half, but OKC rallied and tied the game at 114 with six minutes left. Even after throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Thunder, the Spurs needed two overtimes to put them away.
Paul George, who led OKC with 30 points, took solace in the grit the Thunder demonstrated in defeat.
“For it to go down to the wire with a team that’s hot like that, we have a lot to take away for us, for how we played,” George said.
Three games under .500 five weeks ago, the Silver and Black have won six of their last seven and 14 of 18 to draw within a game of the Thunder for third in the Western Conference.