Spurs vs. Thunder: San Antonio Will Re-Stamp Authority on Western Conference

Marques EversollAnalyst IDecember 17, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 06:   Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Tim Duncan #21 and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs go for a loose ball in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on June 6, 2012 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Thunder beat the Spurs 107-99.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Brett Deering/Getty Images

Through the first quarter of the NBA season, there have certainly been no shortage of storylines. The once-mighty Los Angeles Lakers are reeling, the Los Angeles Clippers are surging, and the Memphis Grizzlies have emerged as a true contender.

But the veteran San Antonio Spurs have been perhaps the most consistent team in basketball.

The 19-6 Spurs will play the 19-4 Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night with a chance to reclaim supremacy in the Western Conference.

Thirty-year-old point guard Tony Parker is enjoying his best season since 2008, but he'll certainly be tested by the younger and more athletic Russell Westbrook.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich drew the ire of NBA commissioner David Stern earlier this year when Pop decided to rest some key starters. The Spurs were finishing a five-game stretch on the road against the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat.

Even without Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs took the Heat to the final minute and narrowly lost by five points.

Despite losing the game, the Spurs proved that they have the pieces in place around their core three players to compete for a championship this year. And with the current state of the Western Conference, an early-season statement could be made with a win over the Thunder on Monday night.

Oklahoma City was the Western Conference representative in the NBA Finals last season. But after losing to the Heat, the Thunder traded star shooting guard James Harden to the Houston Rockets.

The trade has worked out well for both sides so far, as Oklahoma City currently has the best record in the NBA, and Houston looks to be getting some pieces in place around Harden.

Still, San Antonio is currently slated to be the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

The individual matchup to watch will be in the low-post. Duncan, the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer, will be matched up on Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.

Perkins is one of the most physical players in the league, and there aren't many better athletes in the frontcourt than Ibaka.

The 82-game NBA schedule lessens the importance on early-season games, but this is certainly one to watch. Whoever wins will be making a statement to the rest of the Western Conference.