Spurs have been dominant, but Thunder still major problem

Mark D. Smith - USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs just won 19 straight games and have the NBA's best record, but going 0-4 against the Thunder this season is some cause for concern.

The Oklahoma City Thunder snapped the San Antonio Spurs' franchise-record 19-game winning streak on Thursday night, ending one of the most dominant stretches of basketball in recent history.

The Spurs didn't just win games during their fantastic run, they consistently destroyed the opposition. Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry illustrated the dominance quite nicely:

San Antonio's 16.2 net rating during the 19-game streak bested the Miami Heat's 14.1 net rating during the infamous 27-game streak, per NBA.com's stats page. That's pretty impressive stuff.

But while the Spurs were phenomenal during the course of the streak and have been generally excellent all year despite a plethora of injuries, there's still some cause for concern. That concern would be the recent performance against the team that ended the streak.


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Over the past few seasons, San Antonio and Oklahoma City have been the cream of the crop in the Western Conference. The Spurs went to the NBA Finals last season after the Thunder finished the regular season with the best record in the West, and the opposite occurred in 2011-12.

However, things haven't exactly been even when the two teams have gotten together of late. Oklahoma City's 106-94 triumph on Thursday earned them a 4-0 sweep of the season series over San Antonio, and the Thunder have won 10 of the last 12 meetings between the two squads. That of course includes the 2012 Western Conference Finals, a series which saw the Spurs lose four games in a row after winning the first 10 games of the postseason.

Oklahoma City won all four regular-season meetings this year by at least six points, with two of the victories coming by double-digits. The Thunder held the Spurs' typically hyper-efficient offense to just 99.1 points per 100 possessions while scoring 110.1 points per 100 possessions on the other end, per NBA.com's stats page.

Oklahoma City is clearly one of the most talented teams in the NBA, and they have ideal personnel for derailing San Antonio's well-oiled machine. The Thunder have long, athletic defenders to help disrupt the Spurs' blistering offensive attack, while Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are quite the formidable offensive trio.

And although James Harden isn't around anymore as another credible scoring threat, Reggie Jackson has filled that role rather well. In fact, Jackson has been superb against the Spurs this year, averaging 21.3 points on 67.9 percent overall and 72.7 percent from three.

Jackson's emergence as a capable threat has given Thunder coach Scott Brooks some lineup flexibility, and Brooks often likes going to two, and sometimes three, point-guard looks. The Westbrook-Jackson pairing has been dynamite, as the Thunder have outscored opponents by 19.2 points per 100 possessions in 350 minutes this season, per NBA.com's stats page. If you add Derek Fisher to the mix, the three point-guard look is outscoring opponents by 19.8 points per 100 possessions in 102 minutes.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has plenty of lineup flexibility himself when the team is at full strength, so San Antonio should theoretically be able to match up against some of Oklahoma City's more unconventional units. And while the Thunder dominated the season series, regular-season outcomes aren't always the best predictors for what happens in the postseason. A few adjustments here and there over the course of a long series could completely change the game, so nobody should count the Spurs out if the two teams meet in the Western Conference Finals.

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