San Antonio (41-27) at Oklahoma City (42-26)

Cloudy Currently: Oklahoma City, OK
Temp: 72° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EDT Mon Mar 22, 2010
  • TV: FSSW, FSOK
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Kevin Durant(notes) was so furious with his performance in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s latest game that he felt the need to issue an apology to his teammates.

As long he can bounce back against the San Antonio Spurs, all will be forgiven.

A critical four-game homestand for the Thunder against fellow Western Conference contenders begins Monday night, when the Spurs visit the Ford Center looking to lock up their season series against Oklahoma City.

Durant’s offensive game has rarely been anything but impressive in his third NBA season, as the league’s second-leading scorer (29.5 points per game) has turned the Thunder (42-26) into a legitimate playoff contender.

Durant averaged 28.5 points but shot just 38.1 percent as Oklahoma City split the first two games of a three-game road trip, then delivered one of his worst games of the season Sunday. He was held to 16 points and 4 of 16 shooting - committing five turnovers - while the Thunder gave up a season high in points during a 121-101 loss to the Pacers.

“Tonight was a disgrace to how we play and the game of basketball, how we came out, and that starts with me,” Durant said after his lowest-scoring game in more than three months. “I apologize to all the fans, all my teammates that I came out like that, and it translated to my team.

“The best part about this league is we have a game tomorrow.”

Aside from a visit from the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio, Houston and Portland - the three teams directly below Oklahoma City - all visit the Ford Center in the next seven days.

Getting back on track against the Spurs (41-27) won’t be easy. Durant has averaged 27.0 points but shot just 39.7 percent in three games versus San Antonio, including two losses.

Jeff Green(notes) (21 points) and Russell Westbrook(notes) (19 points, 11 assists) were just as instrumental as Durant in Oklahoma City’s lone win, 101-98 at the AT&T Center on Nov. 14.

San Antonio began a treacherous eight-day stretch Sunday with a disheartening loss in Atlanta prior to games against the Thunder, Lakers, Cavaliers and Celtics. Manu Ginobili(notes) tied a season high with 38 points and Tim Duncan(notes) had 29 points and 13 rebounds, but the Hawks rallied from an early 14-point deficit to win 119-114 in overtime.

“I feel we gave this one away,” Duncan said. “With the stretch that we have, we can’t give any away.”

Duncan sat out the Spurs’ first trip to Oklahoma City on Jan. 13 to rest on the second night of a back-to-back situation, but with San Antonio trailing the Thunder by a game in the West standings, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be on the bench Monday.

Duncan’s day off in January gave rookie DeJuan Blair(notes) a chance to shine, and he had 28 points and 21 rebounds before fouling out of the Spurs’ 110-109 overtime victory.

It’s been Ginobili, though, who’s taken on an even bigger role for San Antonio with Tony Parker(notes) sidelined by a broken finger. The Argentinian has averaged 23.4 points and 5.5 assists in the last eight games with Parker out as the offense has been run primarily through him.

Ginobili made 9 of 18 shots and scored a game-high 26 points in a 95-87 home win over the Thunder on Feb. 24, helping make up for a few ugly performances versus Oklahoma City. The former Sixth Man of the Year missed all 18 shots he attempted in the Spurs’ first two games against the Thunder.

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Monday, Mar 22