By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
So much for a showdown with the Spurs tonight, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich will rest all his star players for this evening’s game against the Thunder.
Kawhi Leonard is actually out with an injury, a strained quad, but Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and LaMarcus Aldridge are being rested as the Spurs come in on the second night of a back-to-back.
It’s a typical and frequent Pop move but one that Thunder superstar Kevin Durant wasn’t totally aware of at OKC’s shootaround this morning.
“Oh? Who are they resting I didn’t even know,” Durant said when asked about his mindset facing the Spurs backups. And when told who would not be playing he had a pretty good answer.
“That’s a classic Pop move but you know we still gotta get better and that’s still a good team even missing all their best players. They still run their same stuff, they still got shooters out there.”
Indeed they do. A Spurs starting lineup that could feature either Patty Mills or Andre Miller at point guard, Danny Green or Kevin Martin at shooting guard, David West at small forward, Boris Diaw at power forward and Boban Marjanovic at center is still good enough to cause all kinds of headaches.
“They’re a deep team” Durant agreed, “all those guys could start on some other teams so we gotta be prepared.”
Don’t expect the Thunder to play around with their lineup tonight. Head coach Billy Donovan has said recently there are no plans to sit guys just to sit them.
If a nagging minor injury should come up that someone would normally play through then maybe, like what happened with Serge Ibaka recently. But Donovan doesn’t plan to adopt the rest strategy that Popovich has been known for in recent seasons as his core group of stars has gotten older.
Durant for one is all aboard with that.
“I got my rest last season and early this season (with his injuries) so I’m good.”
KD is working on a streak of consecutive games scoring at least 20 points that has now reached 57 games and in the first two games against San Antonio this season he scored 22 in the Opening Night game (won by OKC 112-106) and 28 in the March 12th game at San Antonio (won by the Spurs 93-85).
That game featured full lineups for both squads and it was the game the Thunder struggled to do of anything against the Spurs defense. OKC shot just 38.3 percent that night and tied their season-low for points.
That loss came right after a shocking home defeat at the hands of Minnesota and the Thunder were at a low point in the season losing for the eighth time in 12 tries coming out of the All-Star break.
Since then though the Thunder have rolled to six straight wins averaging 118 points on 51.5 percent shooting and now have a 5 ½ game lead on the Clippers for third place in the Western Conference.
"We better put our defensive hats on (Saturday)," Martin said. "I'm sure they're back (in Oklahoma City) waiting on us and excited for the opportunity."
K-Mart played one season for the Thunder in 2012-13 and is still respected by Durant and Russell Westbrook, who had a string of three consecutive triple-doubles snapped Thursday against Utah when he didn’t have to play in the fourth quarter of OKC’s blowout win.
Westbrook has racked up six of his 15 triple-doubles in the last 10 games. He has never recorded one though in 38 all-time matchups with the Spurs, including the playoffs, failing to register more than eight rebounds in any of those games.
Russ had a team-best 33 points in the matchup in October but had 19 with nine turnovers in the loss in San Antonio.
Turnovers, plus those shooting woes, were the biggest problems the Thunder had that night. OKC turned the ball over 19 times resulting in 24 Spurs points.
With the Spurs resting so many key players neither of those issues should be a problem tonight for the Thunder.
But as they say, that’s why you play the game.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 tonight and you can see the game locally on Fox Sports Oklahoma and around the nation on NBA-TV. Follow me on Twitter @RandyRenner for live updates from The Peake beginning at about 4 o’clock and our Twitter feed page here on the website will be active as well. We’ll have complete postgame coverage here too with blogs and videos from the lockerroom.