Wed, Nov 27
Chesapeake Energy Arena - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
By ELI KABERON, Associated Press
With a Western Conference showdown looming, the Oklahoma City Thunder held Russell Westbrook out of their last game.
The star point guard should be ready to go when the Thunder host the red-hot Spurs on Wednesday night.
Westbrook had played in nine consecutive games since missing the early part of the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery.
"As the season goes along you find a way to get more comfortable and get back to Thunder basketball," Westbrook said. "And I think that's what we've been trying to do."
Oklahoma City (9-3) didn't miss Westbrook on Sunday, and its other key players also got some rest in a 95-73 rout of Utah, the Thunder's fourth win in a row. Kevin Durant led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds while playing only 26 minutes, while no other member of the Thunder played 30.
"We just wanted to play our game," Durant said. "No matter who's on the floor, we want to execute a game plan on both ends.
"... Of course, we would love to have Russell out (there), but everybody stepped up."
Westbrook has played more than 30 minutes in every game this season, and the game off may leave him fresh for Wednesday. He struggled in a 105-91 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, going 5 of 13 from the field and missing all six 3-point attempts in scoring a season-low 12 points.
San Antonio (13-1) has typically kept its veteran core from being overworked in recent seasons, and that was the case Monday in a 112-93 victory over New Orleans. None of the starters played 25 minutes and only Boris Diaw reached the 30 mark for the Spurs, who built a 57-40 halftime lead.
"We've got a deep team,'' said guard Manu Ginobili, who scored 16 to lead San Antonio. "We're moving the ball really well. We're making shots. The last five games, we made a ton of shots and we are playing focused."
The Spurs had 12 steals and turned 15 Pelicans turnovers into 21 points.
"We're all concentrating, and we're hustling; we're getting hands on lose balls. And then offensively, we're just moving the ball, attacking quick and finding open teammates,'' Ginobili said.
The Spurs' bench scored 65 points Monday and is averaging 44.0, third best in the league.
"The second team did a good job coming in and playing smart, aggressive basketball,'' coach Gregg Popovich said. ''They didn't take anything for granted.''
Durant has averaged 25.5 points in 21 career games against San Antonio, though that's below his career mark of 26.6. Westbrook has had two straight strong games versus the Spurs, scoring 25 points with six rebounds and six assists in a 105-93 road loss March 11 and posting a 27-point, seven-assist, seven-rebound effort in a 100-88 home victory April 4.
While Oklahoma City took the latest meeting, San Antonio has won 10 of the past 13 matchups.