The San Antonio Spurs have been on long winning streaks before.
And the Thunder has made a habit of snapping them.
Remember earlier this season, when San Antonio rolled into Oklahoma City on an 11-game tear? The Thunder easily broke the Spurs run then, leading for the final 20 minutes of that game.
And how about a flashback to the 2012 Western Conference Finals? The Spurs had rattled off an improbable 20 in a row — 10 to close out the regular season and 10 to begin the playoffs.
They looked nearly unbeatable. Then the Thunder beat them four straight times
And now, with the Spurs coming to Oklahoma City on Thursday amidst another impressive stretch – 19 straight, and counting – the question moves beyond whether the Thunder can spoil another streak.
The deeper, more pertinent development is OKC’s recent dominance of San Antonio. Since the Thunder flipped the script back in late May 2012, San Antonio is 2-9 against OKC and 129-41 against everybody else. This season, the Spurs are 0-3 versus OKC and 59-13 against the rest of the league.
Is there something within this matchup – the most likely Western Conference Finals pairing – that gives OKC such a decided edge? Can they keep dominating the team that dominates everybody else?
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Fisher said of the recent history. “Tomorrow’s game has absolutely nothing to do with what we’ve done against them in the past and any games we play against them in the future.”
Probably a wise mindset for the Thunder. But not for those who follow and cover the league.
Because history can be the best predictor of what lies ahead. And the past tells us that some things within this matchup seem to line up well for OKC.
For one, San Antonio doesn’t seem to have anyone with a chance of corralling the Thunder’s talented and powerful point guard combo.
In his last eight games against the Spurs, Russell Westbrook is averaging 22.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 8.4 assists. Tony Parker doesn’t have a prayer of staying in front of him.
And in his three games against the Spurs this season, Reggie Jackson has been equally as dynamic, putting up a combined 71 points on 30-of-45 shooting. Patty Mills has even less of a prayer than Parker.
“Reggie Jackson kicked our (butt),” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said earlier this season, calling him the difference in two of OKC’s three wins over San Antonio.
But for the Thunder, its recent inability to guard the 3-point line could serve as the factor that swings a lopsided series back in San Antonio’s favor.
In the past, OKC’s rare athleticism and freaky length has acted as a deterrent to the Spurs’ typically deadly 3-point success. More than other teams, the Thunder has been able to close out quicker, get a hand up higher and contest better. It’s a dash of kryptonite to an attack that relies almost solely on ball movement and open shots.
But that only applies when the Thunder defense is active, healthy and making the extra effort. Since the All-Star break, that consistently hasn’t been the case.
Good news for the Thunder: It usually reappears in big games.
And showdowns with the Spurs have always qualified in that category.
Another one comes Thursday, with another chance for the Thunder to put the kibosh on an extended Spurs streak.