No easing up for thunder

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook driving to the basket in front of San Antonio guard Danny Green during their game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder won easily 111-92 against the under-manned Spurs.
Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook driving to the basket in front of San Antonio guard Danny Green during their game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder won easily 111-92 against the under-manned Spurs. PHOTO: REUTERS

Oklahoma City keep up momentum with 7th straight win, beating Spurs' second-stringers

OKLAHOMA CITY • The Thunder chose rhythm and the Spurs chose relaxation on Saturday night in Oklahoma City.

No prizes for guessing how it turned out.

Despite the two teams virtually locked into place for the upcoming National Basketball Association play-offs, the Thunder went with their regular starters and regular rotation while Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rested four of his five starters on the second night of a back-to-back game schedule.

The result was predictable. The Thunder pulled away in the second half and cruised to a 111-92 victory, their seventh in a row, at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Kevin Durant scored 31 points and Russell Westbrook had 29.

WE PLAY TO OUR STRENGTHS

Just because San Antonio made a decision that's best for them, we (don't) have to do the same thing... It's about what's best for us.

BILLY DONOVAN, Oklahoma City coach, on how he picked his players.

"It's not their full complement of players, and I think we continued to evolve and get better," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

"I think we can hopefully learn and get better from this game. I still think, for us, it's about getting more consistent all the way through."

He added that he did not consider resting his starters even after learning that San Antonio were planning on it.

"Just because San Antonio made a decision that's best for them, we (don't) have to do the same thing," he said. "It has nothing to do with who we're playing. It's about what's best for us."

The Thunder (51-22), who had won their past six games by an average margin of more than 16 points, took advantage of the Spurs resting four of their five regular starters - Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Neither did sixth man Manu Ginobili.

In their absence, David West and Jonathon Simmons had 17 points apiece to lead the Spurs (61-12).

"We had a lot of young guys get some time and found out some other things about certain players and certain situations," Popovich said. "That what you try to do. We will take all the positives from it."

The Thunder used their regular line-up and after a sluggish first half eventually got going.

"It was going to be a different game," Donovan said. "It's a challenging game to play because, as you are getting prepared, it takes time to get adjusted. We got better and better as the game wore on."

Both teams are virtually locked into their play-off positions in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City will likely be the No. 3 seed and San Antonio figure to be No. 2 behind the Golden State Warriors (65-7), leaving Saturday's match-up without much of a dramatic feel.

"It wasn't on us that they didn't play their starters," Durant said. "We just have to continue to play our game and stick to what we do. We got stops and we ran out and got easy points."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'No easing up for thunder'. Print Edition | Subscribe