Thunder with Some Valuable Time Off

By Randy Renner

While the San Antonio Spurs, who will be in here on Thursday night, are in the middle of playing six games in nine nights the Oklahoma City Thunder are taking a break.

Three full days between games at this point in an NBA season is a bit rare and the Thunder will try to take full advantage.

"I think for us, we can use the rest," Thunder forward Nick Collison told me Sunday after the Thunder beat the Utah Jazz. "And the extra preparation will be good for us. The schedule is what it is, sometimes it gives you a ton of rest like now and sometimes it's brutal with four games in five nights."

That type of thing is coming for the Thunder. Not four games in five nights but something maybe even more daunting, five games in seven nights with four of those five on the road.

"Sometimes when you're playing well you just wanna keep going," Collison said, "and San Antonio I think is coming here on a back-to-back so if you asked them they'd probably prefer the rest instead of the back-to-back. There's nothing you can do about the schedule, we'll just be ready to play."

The Spurs clobbered the Indiana Pacers on the road last night and will play Golden State in San Antonio Wednesday night before coming here for that Thursday Throwdown with the Thunder.

Speculation in the Alamo City is that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will use his regular starters on Wednesday and then scale back and rest at least Tim Duncan along with either Tony Parker or Manu Ginobilli the next night here.

The Thunder are 3.5 games behind the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference and three games back in the loss column.

Remember since OKC is 3-0 against San Antonio this season, the Thunder don't need to pass the Spurs in the standings, just tie them, to get home court advantage at least through the Western Conference playoffs.

"If you ask me would I rather have a choice to have four home games instead of three, yes I'd rather have that," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told reporters after he's team's Monday practice. "It's always good to have the best record, but it's not the end of the world if you don't."

The Thunder didn't a couple seasons ago when they went to the NBA Finals after taking home court advantage away from San Antonio by winning four straight, after losing the first two games on the Spurs home floor.

Then of course, with home court advantage in The Finals the Thunder lost to the Heat.

"It doesn't guarantee nothing other than if there's a game seven it's in your building," Brooks said.

And you'd certainly like to have that but you also have to get to a game seven. The Thunder didn't allow the Spurs to get there two seasons ago when they beat them in six and the Thunder couldn't stretch their Finals series with Miami far enough to have that advantage either.

So right now the Thunder are thankful for having some extra time.

"We're just working on the things we need to do to get better," Brooks said of his Monday practice agenda. "We're not worried about the back-to-back, we're just worried about having a good practice and we did."

The Thunder have the full day off today before coming back Wednesday to fine tune the game plan for the Spurs and that looming back-to-back start to that stretch of five games in seven nights.

The results could deliver the top seed in the Western Conference if everything breaks right or take away home court advantage in even a first round series if they don't.