Live Free Picks
Home Of 500 Handicappers
Place: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
After having the summer to stew over losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder will tip off their 2012-13 season when they visit the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.
While the Thunder still boast three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant and fellow Olympian Russell Westbrook, they traded James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. Harden, who was the Sixth Man of the Year, agreed to a five-year, $80 million extension on Wednesday.
Despite finishing with the best record in West, the Spurs watched helplessly as Oklahoma City won four straight against them in the conference finals. The veteran Spurs will look to exact a small measure of revenge and feed off Wednesday’s 99-95 triumph over New Orleans. Tim Duncan had 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field in the victory.
Oklahoma City Thunder (2011-12: 47-19): Harden’s departure was the only ripple in an otherwise quiet offseason for Scott Brooks’ club. Kendrick Perkins is expected to log plenty of minutes at center and improve upon a woeful 5.1 points per game – his lowest output since his sophomore season in the league.
Guard Thabo Sefolosha and power forward Serge Ibaka will round out the starting lineup for Oklahoma City, which will have a tough road to repeat as Western Conference champions.
San Antonio Spurs (1-0): Although Tony Parker started his season with a flourish on Wednesday by scoring 23 points, he was simply sensational in a 107-96 victory over Oklahoma City last Feb. 4.
The Frenchman scored 42 points and added nine assists in the triumph. Swingman Kawhi Leonard put together strong spurts to finish with 19 points in the opener, which saw veteran guard Manu Ginobili sit out with back spasms.
1. The Thunder also shipped Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward and Daequan Cook to the Rockets, who in turn sent two 2013 first-round picks to complete the Harden deal.
2. Parker’s heroics aside, Oklahoma City won two of the three regular-season meetings between the clubs.
3. The Thunder led the league with an 80.6 free-throw percentage in 2011-12. The Spurs were 19th with a 74.8 percentage.