Streaking Thunder aim to keep Spurs buried

The Oklahoma City Thunder carry plenty of momentum as they barrel into San Antonio to square off with the struggling Spurs Thursday in a Western Conference duel between teams at the opposite ends of the standings.

The Thunder carry a six-game winning streak that’s allowed them to keep pace with the Minnesota Timberwolves atop the West standings. Oklahoma City beat Houston 112-95 at home on Tuesday to complete a sweep of the teams’ home-and-home mini-series over a period of three nights.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points to lead the Thunder, who, at 41-17, have already exceeded last season’s win total of 40.

“We brought physicality from the jump tonight,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We didn’t have our best offensive game, but we brought the fight to them in the beginning.

“We were able to kind of get a lead and maintain the lead for most of the night because of it.”

Gilgeous-Alexander was at his best late in the third quarter when Oklahoma City expanded a three-point lead to 84-74 heading into the fourth period.

“I just take what the defense gives me and trust my work,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “There’s moments, and you can feel it, when you’ve got it going and you should be aggressive. And there’s also moments when you need your teammates and you’ve got to kind of play the game.”

Jalen Williams added 24 points and Chet Holmgren amassed 18 points and 13 rebounds and Josh Giddey had 14 points for Oklahoma City as it matched its season-high in consecutive wins.

The Spurs head home after a dismal Rodeo Road Trip in which they dropped eight of their nine games, most recently a 114-105 setback to Minnesota in Minneapolis on Tuesday.

Devin Vassell led the Spurs with 21 points in Tuesday’s loss while Keldon Johnson added 20. Victor Wembanyama racked up 17 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, Malaki Branham had 12 points, and Tre Jones and Cedi Osman produced 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Key to the game was San Antonio’s 23 turnovers that led to 30 points for the Timberwolves.

“You can’t win games when you give up 30 points off turnovers,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s the bottom line. Every time we’ve done that this year, we’ve gotten our butts kicked. That happened again (against Minnesota). Everything else is pretty irrelevant.”

San Antonio trailed by 15 points at the half and by 24 late in the third quarter before mounting a comeback with a rousing 38-point offensive explosion in the fourth period.

The Spurs clawed to within six points in the final minute before running out of time and losing their fifth consecutive contest and 12th in their past 13 games.

Wembanyama said the team is being held accountable for the mistakes it makes and understands that it’s a part of the learning curve.

“This is the only way to get better,” Wembanyama said. “We have to make those mistakes to get better, but the quicker, the better.”

Oklahoma City has won the first two games in this year’s season series, beating the Spurs by 36 points at home in November and by 26 at San Antonio on Jan. 24.

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