The matchup between All-Star forwards Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio has the potential to be the series-deciding element as the Thunder and Spurs collide in the Western Conference semifinals. The teams open the series on Saturday in San Antonio and Leonard, the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, will be assigned to slow down and frustrate Durant.
Durant averaged 26 points as Oklahoma City defeated Dallas in five games in the opening round but his shooting was subpar at 36.8 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from 3-point range. Leonard averaged fewer points (21.5) during San Antonio’s first-round sweep of Dallas but he shot 52.7 percent from the field – including a torrid 61.1 from 3-point range – while contributing 2.8 blocked shots and 2.8 steals. “He’s grown so much,” Durant told reporters of Leonard. “He’s probably the best in the league at shooting the mid-range off the dribble. Can post up, dribble, shoot the 3, catch and shoot. Their team, their system, their continuity and how they move allows him to get free a lot of times and utilize his game.” This will be the third time in five seasons that the teams have met in the playoffs – the Thunder won in six games in 2012 to reach the NBA Finals and the Spurs’ six-game series victory in 2014 also advanced them to the NBA Finals.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
LINE HISTORY: The Spurs opened Game 1 as 6-point home favorites over the Thunder, were shortly bet up to -6.5, but have since moved back to the opening number. The total meanwhile, has seen considerable movement. It has been bet down two and a half points from 203 to the current number of 200.5. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (59-28, 40-46-1 ATS, 42-45 O/U): Oklahoma City’s four victories in the Dallas series were by an average of 23 points and point guard Russell Westbrook was in top form with five double-doubles – three points-assists and two points-rebounds – while averaging 26 points, 11.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds. “He’s got a lot of energy, he’s super aggressive and obviously one of the best point guards in the league,” Spurs point guard Tony Parker told reporters. “It’s just fun to play against him. He brings a lot of excitement to the game. It’s always a great matchup.” The Thunder would like to see more consistency from backup center Enes Kanter, who had outings of 28 and 21 points against Dallas and scored six or fewer points in two others.
ABOUT THE SPURS (71-15, 47-39 ATS, 36-48-2 O/U): San Antonio won its games against Memphis by an average of 22 points and looked well-oiled with three of the four victories occurring by more than 20 points. Leonard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (14.5 average against the Grizzlies) are the offensive mainstays and old playoff stalwarts like center Tim Duncan, shooting guard Manu Ginobili and Parker have accepted lesser roles. “You’ve got to play both ends of the floor a little differently because he’s an All-Star player,” Durant said of Aldridge. “He’s a guy that can shoot over any shoulder, he can shoot from range, he can roll to the rim, so it’s a different dynamic when you play a guy like that, and that’s when you’ve got to be locked in and ready for anything.”
* Thunder are 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.
* Spurs are 0-6 ATS in their last six versus Northwest Division opponents.
* Under is 4-0 in Spurs last four home games.
* Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The early consensus has 54 percent of bettors backing the home side Spurs. When it comes to the total, 65 percent of wagers are on the over.