Western powers collide with Thunder set to visit Spurs

9:40 AM, Mar 11, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - Ali/Frazier, Duke/North Carolina and Yankees/Red Sox are considered premier rivalries in sports lore.

The NBA's Western Conference has established an impressive one between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. The two powers collide Monday in the Alamo City with the conference's top seed up for grabs.

San Antonio currently sits a game ahead of the Thunder and is looking to get back on track after getting crushed by the Portland Trail Blazers, 136-106, Friday night in the continuation of a six-game homestand. The Spurs had a 29-27 lead after 12 minutes and knew they were in for a long night after that.

Portland won every quarter after the first by scoring 30-plus points, including a lopsided 46-24 advantage in the final stanza. The Trail Blazers, who used a 19-6 burst in the second quarter, shot 61.6 percent for the game and made 13-of-21 3-pointers, while San Antonio's 52.4 percent clip from the floor wasn't good enough.

Tim Duncan had 18 points, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard both scored 16 and Cory Joseph, who's been filling in for injured point guard Tony Parker, had 13 points, three assists and two steals.

"There will be a bunch of film session involved in this one," Duncan said. "The game just got away from us."

The Spurs had a three-game winning streak stopped and lost for the third time in the past 12 tries. They are 3-2 on the homestand and 25-4 as the host. San Antonio, which is two wins shy of 50 for a 14th consecutive season, are slated to visit Minnesota on Tuesday and will return home for four straight games.

Ginobili talked about the matchup with the Thunder after Sunday's practice.

"Tough game. Great test for us, hopefully we do much better," Ginobili said. "It's gonna be one of those games where you really gotta be close to perfect to win, so hopefully we are. (Kevin) Durant is shooting great, scoring like always. (Russell) Westbrook is so fast and gets you offguard in transition with his speed. They got a great system going, great flow and an enormous amount of talent."

Ginobili said you always want to measure up against the best. Playing better and being more ready than the last game versus Portland will be key.

Oklahoma City enters Monday's test riding a five-game winning streak and has prevailed in eight of the last nine games. It is fresh off Sunday's 91-79 triumph over the visiting Boston Celtics as Durant, the NBA's leading scorer with 28.4 ppg, finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds.

Westbrook added 15 points for Oklahoma City, which avoided the proverbial trap game versus the Celtics with San Antonio looming.

"I thought our fourth-quarter defense was as good as it can get," OKC head coach Scott Brooks said. "

Boston likes to run screens, pick-and-roll and set up in the post, and the Thunder were able to avoid breakdowns for the win. Durant, Westbrook and Nick Collison were all pleased with the defensive effort versus the Celtics, but must now face a Spurs team looking to save face from an embarrassing loss.

The Thunder, who are second in the NBA in scoring (106.7 ppg), have won three straight away from home and are 19-12 as the visitor this season. They have split two meetings with San Antonio this season with each team coming out on top as the host. The Spurs, who are fourth with 104.8 ppg, have taken nine of the past 11 meetings with OKC.

Oklahoma City has lost five straight and 15 of 18 trips to the AT&T Center.

The Sports Network

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