Thunder-Spurs Preview

Kevin Durant wrapped in street clothes wouldn't be a bad Christmas gift for the San Antonio Spurs.

Likewise, Kawhi Leonard sporting a tie rather than a tank top might brighten the Oklahoma City Thunder's holiday spirits.

The Western Conference powers meet Thursday in San Antonio for the first time since the 2014 conference finals, and at least two of the main contributors face murky statuses.

"It's going to be a big test for us," Thunder coach Scott Brooks told the team's official website. "San Antonio is the defending champ. They play great basketball and had a great game (Monday) night. I'm sure they're ready to play."

Durant is said to be day to day with a sprained right ankle that's cost the reigning league MVP three games, but Oklahoma City's game notes list him as out for the Christmas clash.

Leonard is said to be nearing a return and could face the Thunder, but coach Gregg Popovich revealed the reigning NBA Finals MVP is dealing with a torn ligament in his right hand rather than a bruise, as was originally reported. He's missed four straight games and six of the last eight.

"One of the doctors said he's been doing hands for 40 years and this is the first time he's ever seen this injury," Popovich said. "It's a little bit unique."

With Durant out, the Thunder (13-16) are 1-2 with consecutive losses. Durant also missed 17 games to begin the season with a broken right foot, and, as if necessary, the injuries have cemented the 26-year-old forward's value to the team. With him, Oklahoma City is 7-2. Without, it's 6-14, including Tuesday's 115-111 home overtime loss to Portland.

The Spurs (18-11) have had their stars in and out of the lineup for much of the season, yet remain 3 1/2 games out of first place in the stacked Southwest Division.

Monday's 125-118 home win over the Los Angeles Clippers ended San Antonio's four-game losing streak, though it remains 3-4 without Leonard this season while going 15-7 with him in the lineup.

Tony Parker was also expected to miss Monday's game, but the point guard ended up returning from a five-game absence to due a strained left hamstring and scoring a game-high 26 points.

"He says he feels great," Popovich said. "I'm scared to death about it, but I'm just going to trust him. He has been around for a long time, and he doesn't want to reinjure himself. Hopefully, he's OK."

Should the veteran face the Thunder, he figures to be plenty busy with Russell Westbrook, who scored a season-high 40 points against the Trail Blazers. The more promising number, however, might have been his 16-of-34 shooting mark (47.1 percent) after shooting 38.0 percent over his previous three games.

He's averaging a league-high 29.5 points in 13 games since returning from a broken hand that cost him 14 games, but the 3-point shot remains an issue for Westbrook. He's shooting 28.0 percent in that time and is 4 of 22 over the team's 1-3 stretch.

The Spurs won last season's playoff series 4-2, but it followed the Thunder's four-game sweep of the Spurs in the regular season that extended Oklahoma City's run in the series to five.

Westbrook played in nine of the 10 games in 2013-14 and averaged 25.0 points, though he shot 41.4 percent and 26.1 percent from long range.

In addition to overcoming the potential absence of Durant, the Thunder are also concerning themselves with earning a respectable away win. They're 6-9 on the road, and those wins have come at Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Minnesota, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers. Only two of those teams have reached 10 wins.

"They are definitely a tough team at home," Westbrook said of the Spurs. "We just have to go in there and try to get a win."

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