By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
“I think it’s a great opportunity.”
That’s how Thunder head coach Billy Donovan views his team’s game tomorrow night with the San Antonio Spurs.
“Obviously you’re playing a team that’s been incredible this year, they’re very disciplined and I think any time you play against really good teams you can’t help but get better.”
Donovan has said many times this season and especially when the Thunder were going through their 4-8 rough patch that adversity is good.
“The adversity we had to go through, the challenges we faced was good for this team it just was good for this team,” he said after Friday’s practice. “It shined a light on the things that we needed to do better and needed to improve on and I give our guys credit for the commitment that they made.”
It might not have looked like at the time but even while the Thunder were losing games Donovan could see a change for the better coming. Just like when the Thunder were winning 16 out of 18 games before the All-Star break he could see some slippage that others might have been ignoring or glossing over.
“Even through some of those difficult losses where we had an opportunity to win I was able to see watching film some growth and some improvement we just didn’t get the result we wanted,” he said. “And I think there was times before the All-Star break we got the result we wanted but I’m sayin ‘geez you know we’re kinda movin’ in the wrong direction here a little bit defensively’, so there’s always a balance.”
Saturday night the Thunder will play the team that perhaps displays the most balance, the most consistency, the most discipline of any team in the NBA. So we’ll see how much progress the Thunder have made in those areas.
“I think our guys have played against the Spurs often enough that they know you’re gonna have to be disciplined in blocking out and getting back and not breaking down to really have an opportunity to guard them with the way they move the ball and the way they pass and their unselfishness,” Donovan said.
The Thunder will come into the game riding high on a six-game winning streak and they may have a chance to catch the Spurs when they’re not quite at their best. San Antonio is playing the rough and tumble Memphis Grizzlies tonight before flying to OKC and coach Gregg Popovich may end up deciding to rest one or two of his veteran stars.
Donovan probably hopes not, preferring to face a stronger challenge to test his team’s resolve against the best.
“We’re starting to build some consistency and now the question is can we continue to move in that direction and still get better?”
Can they indeed? Whatever the answer is it most likely holds the key to how well, or not, the Thunder will be when the playoffs begin in three weeks.