Gameday Dish: Thunder vs. Spurs

The defending Western Conference champion OKC Thunder begin their 2012-2013 campaign tonight in San Antonio against a Spurs squad that they bested 4-2 in the WCF last spring. Noticeably absent will be the reigning Sixth Man of The Year and London Olympian gold medalist James Harden. The 4th-year Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb and draft picks this week in a pseudo-shocker of a roster shake-up in Thunder Nation.

Coach Gregg Popovich’s guys were riding an overall 20 game winning streak before losing 4 in a row to Kevin Durant and company to end their year last season. Now entering his 17th-year as the head man in San Antonio, Pop still has his Big-3 of 16th-year Tim Duncan, 11th-year swingman Manu Ginobili and 12th-year PG Tony Parker.

The Spurs played the Hornets last night in the Big Easy and came out on top, 99-95, behind Duncan’s 24 points, 11 boards and 3 blocks. However, Ginobili, who’s been battling back problems, sat out this first 48 of the year and will miss tonight’s opener as well.

In last season’s condensed 66-game regular season schedule, these two sides played three times. The Spurs won two of the three, victorious once at home and once in OKC. On January 8th early in the season, the Thunder won 108-96 at home behind Harden’s 20 points in 22 minutes off the bench.

Tonight’s River City contest will be about the Spurs’ older stars versus the Thunder’s young guns. How OKC’s new additions click and contribute could be an early indication of whether the torch has been passed in the West after last spring’s WCF result.

Tune in tonight at 9:30 PM ET to TNT to watch Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan and two of the NBA’s best franchises go head-to-head.

As you know, tonight’s first ever regular season game at the brand new Barclays Center between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets has been postponed due to Hurricane Sandy’s devastating aftermath. This game was scheduled to be TNT’s early Thursday matchup. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people affected by this terrible storm.