Thursday, January 10 at 9:30 PM ET
Russell Westbrook and the struggling Oklahoma City Thunder visit DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs in game one of a home-and-home series on Thursday night.
The Thunder are coming off home losses against the Wizards and Timberwolves while the Spurs saw their five-game winning streak end with a 96-86 road loss against the Grizzlies last night.
Russell Westbrook continues to struggle with his shot
Westbrook scored 25 points on 11 of 22 shooting against the Timberwolves, but he missed two straight go-ahead 3-point attempts near the end of the fourth quarter; the game before, in a setback against the Wizards, he finished with 22 points on just 9 of 23 shooting.
Lately, Westbrook's shooting performances have been like that but his defense has been better than ever. Westbrook is fifth among point guards in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus rankings and he's leading the NBA with 2.5 steals per game, besting his previous career-high of 2.1 set in 2014-15.
Westbrook's defense is keeping him productive despite being in the middle of one of the most inconsistent offensive stretches of his career. His 42.0 shooting percentage and 23.5 percent from 3-point range are the worst they've been since his second season in the NBA, before he turned into an All-Star and he's never shot close to this poorly from the free-throw line (62.7 percent on 5.5 attempts per game).
Russell Westbrook's inconsistent offense hasn't slowed the Thunder down yet and his defense is playing a significant role in their success (third in the Western Conference, just 2.5 games behind the first place Nuggets).
In the end, Westbrook will probably end up with a triple-double against the Spurs but if they can force him to shoot anywhere outside of the paint, get more defensive than offensive rebounds and turn the ball over a lot, they should win this game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are:
1-4 ATS in their last five games against Southwest Division opponents
The San Antonio Spurs are:
5-0-1 ATS in their last six games following a straight up loss
7-0 ATS in their last seven games against a team with a winning percentage above .600
6-1 ATS in their last seven Thursday games
14-3 ATS in their last 17 home games against a team with a winning road record
9-2-1 ATS in their last 12 games against Western Conference opponents
13-3 ATS in their last 16 games when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game
16-4-1 ATS in their last 21 games against a team with a winning straight up record
19-6-1 ATS in their last 26 games when their opponent scores 100 points or more in their previous game
15-5-1 ATS in their last 21 games overall
35-17 ATS in their last 52 home games
Rebounding as a whole can make a difference for the Spurs. Between Westbrook, Paul George, Jerami Grant and Steven Adams (who grabs nearly half of his 10.2 rebounds per game on the offensive glass), the Thunder lead the NBA with 12.6 offensive rebounds per game, so preventing second-chance looks to a team that ranks 12th in the league with 111.7 points per game will be crucial.
The Thunder usually finds life in forcing turnovers (they lead the NBA with 10.3 steals per game) but if the Spurs take care of the ball and move it with purpose, they'll find holes against an overly-aggressive Thunder team.
NBA Pick: Spurs +1.5 (-110) at Jazz Sports
Check odds here: http://bit.ly/2RMxhhA