Spurs-Thunder Preview

Thanks to their longest winning streak in 16 years, the Oklahoma
City Thunder own the best record in the NBA.

The San Antonio Spurs aren’t far behind and Tony Parker is a big
reason why.

Kevin Durant and the Thunder go for their 11th win in a row
Monday night when they host Parker and the Spurs for the first time
since eliminating them in last season’s Western Conference
finals.

Oklahoma City (19-4) has won 10 straight for the first time
since an 11-game run in November 1996 when the franchise was the
Seattle SuperSonics.

The Thunder are averaging 109.6 points and shooting 50.2 percent
during the current streak, keeping them perfect since a loss at
Boston on Nov. 23.

“It’s good. We’re 19-4 and we just want to look at the bigger
picture instead of winning streaks,” said sixth man Kevin Martin,
who is averaging 19.7 points in the past three games. “We’re a
pretty talented team, so we’re just taking baby steps and getting
better every day.”

Durant continues to be the team’s driving force, averaging 30.2
points over his last 12 games, with Oklahoma City winning 11.

The superstar forward kept the Thunder rolling Friday, making 10
of 14 field goals to finish with 31 points and four steals in
Friday’s 113-103 win over Sacramento.

Durant had 23 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in an 86-84
loss at San Antonio (19-6) in the Thunder’s season opener Nov.
1.

He’s averaged 25.8 points in 18 career regular-season meetings
with the Spurs, but totaled 29.5 while helping top-seeded Oklahoma
City oust San Antonio in the conference finals last spring.

Durant was stellar in the decisive 107-99 victory in Game 6 on
June 6, tallying 34 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.

Parker finished with 29 points and 12 assists in that meeting,
and had 14 and 11 in this season’s first matchup.

The four-time All-Star enters this game averaging 22.9 points
and 8.0 assists during San Antonio’s 6-2 run, and had 22 points
with four steals in a 103-88 win over Boston on Saturday.

“Tony’s a phenomenal player,” said guard Gary Neal, who had 20
points. “Through the years I’ve been here, he’s done some
phenomenal things.”

Tim Duncan was far from phenomenal Saturday, missing 11 of 13
shots to finish with a season-low five points and 12 rebounds. He
was much better against Oklahoma City last month, collecting 20
points, eight boards and three blocks.

Manu Ginobili may miss another meeting with the Thunder after
back spasms kept him sidelined for the first matchup. The veteran
swingman suffered a bruised left quad in the opening quarter
against the Celtics.

He averaged 18.5 points against Oklahoma City in the playoffs,
but was limited to 10.3 on 37.5 percent shooting in the three road
games.

While the Spurs and Thunder are back atop the West standings
with a burgeoning rivalry, Parker doesn’t feel it’s on the level as
San Antonio’s others against Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers.

“No, not yet,” he said. “Not like the Lakers or the Mavericks.
Sure, it’s starting to become a rivalry.”