Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Thunder attempt to regain momentum against Spurs

The Oklahoma City Thunder will look to restart their late-December recovery when they play host to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.

The Thunder were closing in Friday on a fourth consecutive victory, which would have matched their high season, when they blew a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead and dropped a 128-125 overtime decision against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans.

Oklahoma City’s run of better play actually began before the recent three-game winning streak kicked off on Dec. 17. The Thunder absorbed one-possession defeats to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat in the two games before the victories began.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to step up his game for Oklahoma City. He is averaging 32.7 points over 10 games this month, just a tick over his 31.6-point season average.

In the Friday loss to the Pelicans, Gilgeous-Alexander scored a season-high 44 points. It was his third game this season with at least 40 points, two of them coming in his past six contests.

“We did a great job of putting ourselves in position there,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “We were down. The first half we were just really out of rhythm and not a lot of energy. We came out of halftime and it didn’t turn right away, but we kind of hung in there and stuck with it.

“We got a nice run to finish the third (quarter) and did a nice job in the fourth to get control of the game. They just out-executed us late in the fourth quarter on both ends of the floor.”

Tuesday’s game will conclude Oklahoma City’s seven-game homestand, the longest in franchise history. The Thunder, who are 3-3 on the homestand, will head out for a game at Charlotte on Thursday, then return home for a pair of games wrapped around New Year’s Day.

The Spurs will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back after earning a 126-122 home victory against the Utah Jazz on Monday. Devin Vassell scored 24 points and Keldon Johnson added 21 for San Antonio, which led by 20 points late in the third quarter then held on late for the win.

The Spurs have won two of their past six games and are 5-4 going back to Dec. 8. San Antonio shot 55.2 percent from the field on Monday as the team continues to look much improved from a stretch in which it lost 16 of 17 games from Nov. 2-Dec. 4.

“We are still a young group, but we have smart players, young guys who want to listen and get better,” the Spurs’ Josh Richardson said, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “Hopefully, one of these days it really starts kicking in.

“I think it just takes us stringing together a couple of games where we do play that full 48 (minutes) to see what it looks like, to see how hard you have to play the whole game. Then, hopefully it becomes the standard.”

The Tuesday game will be the second of three meetings between the teams this season. The Thunder won 119-111 in Oklahoma City on Nov. 30. The sides also will square off in San Antonio on March 12.

– Field Level Media

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