With San Antonio blowing out the Blazers Monday night, the Thunder have found their position in the Western Conference playoffs — number two.
Oklahoma City will match up with either Dallas or Denver in the opening round of the playoffs. Currently Denver leads Dallas by a half game, but the Mavericks have the tiebreaker between the two teams and only one game to play (at Atlanta). The Nuggets have two games remaining, one being in OKC against the Thunder (and the other at Minnesota).
So with that in mind, the Thunder really could potentially control who they’d prefer to play in the first round. Scott Brooks has said he wouldn’t rest players, but if OKC preferred the Mavs to the Nuggets in the opening round, he might sit his stars for the second half and concede. I would imagine Brooks and the Thunder would rather match up with the Nuggets though, a team they’ve dominated over the past year. The Mavs, well, you know what happened with the Mavs.
It’s times like these where you can point directly to bad losses to the Rockets and Cavs at home or the road losses to the Kings and Wizards. Those type of giveaways are the difference in OKC securing home court throughout the Western playoffs and now potentially having to go on the road in the Western Finals for a Game 7.
Also, being the No. 2 seed means the Thunder will (likely) play the winner of the Lakers-Nuggets (or Mavs) series, avoiding the Clippers or Grizzlies. I suppose that’s a bonus.
There is something left to play for though. The Thunder and the Heat have identical records right now so OKC could work to try and have homecourt in a potential Finals matchup with the Heat. That’s obviously looking way down the road, but if there’s something to care about, it’s that. Otherwise, the regular season is effectively over for the Thunder and it’s just about being healthy for the playoffs.