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Spurs, Thunder could use a win in playoff race

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The San Antonio Spurs aren’t used to this.

The Spurs (37-28) have been the model of consistency in the NBA, making the playoffs in each of Gregg Popovich’s 20 full seasons at the helm, winning at least 50 games each season and never finishing below second in their division.

But for one of the few times in Popovich’s tenure, San Antonio is struggling, having lost nine of its last 12 games.

Of course, a big part of San Antonio’s woes is due to the loss of star Kawhi Leonard, who has been limited to nine games this season because of injury.

There’s more to it, though.

In each of the Spurs’ last six losses, San Antonio led in the fourth quarter before things went awry.

“Games we’re up 10 that we usually win, we lose,” guard Tony Parker told the San Antonio Express-News. “Teams come back, and we don’t know what we’re doing offensively or defensively. It is what it is. We just have to find a way.”

On Saturday, the Spurs play the Oklahoma City Thunder (38-29) in the second game of a tough three-game road trip that started Thursday at Golden State and ends Monday in Houston.

The Spurs are 14-20 away from home this season and must win their final seven road games this season to avoid their first losing road record since 1996-97.

The teams come into Saturday’s game in a virtual tie for the fifth spot in the Western Conference but just a couple games from falling out of the playoff picture entirely.

The Spurs and Thunder have split their first two meetings of the season, with each team winning by three at home.

Oklahoma City is looking for its ninth win in 14 games, though it would be just the second over a team in playoff position. During this recent stretch, the Thunder’s only win over a playoff team was Feb. 6 at Golden State.

Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan changed his starting lineup in Thursday’s win over Phoenix, inserting the recently signed Corey Brewer at shooting guard.

Not only did Brewer appear to solidify the Thunder’s defensive in his nearly 28 minutes, but he added some offensive punch that has been lacking most of the year with Andre Roberson first starting there and then Josh Huestis, Alex Abrines and Terrance Ferguson taking turns since Roberson’s season-ending injury.

Brewer’s presence seemed to help create space for all of Oklahoma City’s starters to work when they were in the game together.

“I feel comfortable with Corey shooting the ball out of the corner and he’s also a good cutter,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He can tell when his guy’s maybe falling asleep or focusing in on some different action and he can back-cut. But I think the ball’s going to find, a lot of times, that open man.”

Spurs center Pau Gasol is questionable after suffering a shoulder injury in Monday’s win over Memphis when he collided with his brother, Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. Pau Gasol missed Thursday’s game at Golden State.

The Thunder are likely to be without Ferguson after he suffered a concussion in the win over Phoenix when he collided with teammate Steven Adams.

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