Spurs vs. Thunder: A Western Conference finals preview?

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The two best teams in the West square off in a matchup that could help determine homecourt advantage on their side of the playoff bracket.

Last time the San Antonio Spurs faced off against the Oklahoma City Thunder, they managed an impressive 105-93 victory on March 11 despite the absence of star point guard Tony Parker.

On Thursday, the Spurs will need to pull out a similar effort as they visit OKC without shooting guard Manu Ginobili.

In a matchup between the two teams firmly atop the Western Conference standings, the playoff implications for the game aren't massive, but both teams could find some rhythm with the beginning of the postseason less than three weeks away.

For the most part, San Antonio has played well this season without Ginobili, but the past few games have highlighted the difficulty his absence might provide against good teams. In the past week, the Spurs lost games to two other title contenders -- Miami and Memphis -- with Manu sidelined.

The solid 10-5 record with Ginobili out of the lineup shows the team can compete, but beating good teams in the postseason will be a major challenge if he's still sidelined. At the moment, the Spurs haven't said firmly whether he would be ready for the beginning of the playoffs April 20.

For OKC, playing at home certainly hasn't been the issue of late. The Thunder dropped their two games in San Antonio this season, but soundly beat the Spurs at home back in December.

The Derek Fisher Experiment

If these two teams do meet in the Western Conference finals, one interesting story line to watch will be how the coaches adjust their rotations. For Scott Brooks, the question is simple: how long can he continue playing Derek Fisher?

In 17 games in OKC this season, the 38-year-old guard has more personal fouls than field goals, assists or rebounds. He is shooting 32 percent from the floor and 29 percent from beyond the arc and he has a PER of 5.7.

What's even more bizarre is that he's taking minutes from players like Reggie Jackson, Kevin Martin and Ronnie Brewer, who may not have as much championship experience but who have much more basketball ability.

Will Popovich be able to exploit the Fisher-sized hole in the Thunder's lineup? Will Brooks even notice or care? In a series between two teams so evenly matched, these types of decisions could help sway the final outcome one way or the other.

Game time: 9:30 p.m. ET


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