The Thunder are the West’s No. 1 seed.
With a 104-95 rolling of the Kings, the Thunder put away their 60th win and more importantly, the Spurs.
(The quick and dirty: The Thunder held a 24-point second half lead, but the Kings cut it to 10 in the fourth quarter. Scott Brooks, who appeared to be trying to let the second and third units close the game, brought the starters back to close things down. They did with no problems, and the Thunder cruised to No. 60. Kevin Durant was fantastic, again, going for 29 on 10-16 shooting with seven rebounds and eight assists, Russell Westbrook had 21 with eight assists, and the bench showed well with 30 points, despite being without Kevin Martin.)
You can look at it this way: It’s another step in the process. It’s an accomplishment the Thunder haven’t done, both in winning 60 and taking the top seed. They have followed a steady progression from the 3-29 start, to a solid finish that season, to an eight-seed and 50 wins, to the Western Conference finals, to the NBA Finals. Now, they’ve done something new. They’ve had their best regular season yet. Following the pattern, well, I think you can draw the conclusion here.
But it is pretty remarkable when you think about in four years going from a squad that started 3-29 to one that has won 60 games.
“To get 60 wins is quite an accomplishment. We’ve come a long way through all the hard work our entire organization has put in,” Scott Brooks said. “There’s no question I’m excited about what we’ve done. We’ve had a really good regular season. But we want to play well in the playoffs. We want to continue build our team and build our habits and compete for a championship many years.
“When we made the trade early in the season, we didn’t lack confidence. We knew we had enough in the locker room that were going to push each other in practice and have a great training camp and move the team forward. But 60 wins, guys, I’m excited. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s not a cool thing. Because it doesn’t happen often.”
Said Durant: “It feels good. We’ve still got a lot of work to do … We’ve never done it here before. It’s new to us, but it feels good. It shows our progression as a franchise each and every year.”
What it also means is that Wednesday’s game is now mostly meaningless. The Thunder have 60, they have the top seed in the West. Other than for pride, there’s nothing to play for. Scott Brooks said the regular players will see “very limited” action against the Bucks, meaning we should get a heavy load of some of the young players.
And judging by what we saw tonight against the Kings, it’s going to make Wednesday’s game pretty fun. With Perk, Martin and Derek Fisher all out, Jeremy Lamb and Daniel Orton were called into action and both performed well. Orton was especially solid, notching 10 points with seven rebounds and three steals in 22 minutes. He was active, aggressive and strong on the boards. There was an expectation for Lamb to fill a rotation slot, but he didn’t check in until the fourth quarter. He played all 12 minutes though scoring eight points on 4-8 shooting. He missed all four 3s he attempted, but it’s clear the kid can play. He used a couple nice dribble pull-ups, finished a layup on a backdoor cut and flew in to tip in a miss off the weakside. I’m looking forward to big minutes.
Funny to think about this season though. Back on March 29, the Thunder lost in Minnesota to drop them 2.5 games behind the Spurs and it seemed that the chance at the top seed was gone right there. But the Thunder have gone 7-1 since, and with a little help from the Spurs, have made up the ground and put a new feather in their cap. Mission accomplished for the first season. Now, it’s on to the second one.
- The other intriguing thing about Wednesday’s game: Assuming Melo sits again, Durant needs 70 to take the scoring title. Brooks says the starters won’t play much, and guaranteed Durant wouldn’t get 70 but when asked tonight: “I’ll try if you want me to.” Told emphatically YES PLEASE, Durant said, “Alright, I’ll try and get 70.”
- I know he wasn’t serious, but man, wouldn’t that be the funs.
- Scott Brooks on Durant: “I give Kevin a lot of credit. Ten games ago, if he was really focused on getting it four years in a row, he could’ve gotten it. Easily. He was so focused many times, he was trying to get a triple-double. When you try and get 10 assists, you’re not trying to score. Next year, he could lead the league in scoring. But that’s never been the focus. He wants to win a championship like everyone in our locker room. He’s always doing the right things for the team.”
- Durant had his sixth consecutive game with six or more assists, the longest streak of his career.
- The Thunder had some really sloppy moments and some horrific episodes of overpassing. On a 3-on-1, KD passed up an easy dunk to try and drop the ball off to Ronnie Brewer who couldn’t finish. Then OKC blew a 4-on-1 fastbreak as Brewer tried to lob both Westbrook and Ibaka, but nearly threw the ball over the backboard. You know you threw a bad oop when neither one of those guys can get to it.
- Reggie Jackson’s dunk. WHOA. I’m calling him “Kingslayer” from now on.
- How about that “pass” from Westbrook to Brewer. That was slop turned into gold.
- Westbrook got “hit” in the face five times tonight. That’s no exaggeration. He grabbed at his face a lot.
- With about eight minutes left, Westbrook pulled one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen from him. He nearly stole a pass on the left wing, then recovered to half contest a jumper on the right wing, then kept going to contest a 3 from the right corner. He ran nearly the entire perimeter of the court. You know how people say that you can’t outrun the ball? Well, for most people, that’s true. Doesn’t apply to Russell Westbrook.
- It looked like Tyreke Evans suffered a horrible knee injury in the first quarter, but turns out it was just a quad strain. Phew.
- Westbrook earned the first ejection of his career tonight. He got hit with a double-technical in the third quarter, then picked up a second technical after hitting the ball after a runout dunk by Travis Outlaw. Westbrook wasn’t protesting a call though, he was just sort of hitting it in frustration of the turnover. But it bounced over his head, which is an automatic tech.
- Lamb’s length gets me every time I see him. He looks like the duck with big arms from Toy Story. It’s like someone pulled the arms off a 6-11 guy and surgically applied them to Lamb’s body. Maybe that should be Lamb’s nickname — Ducky.
- DeMarcus Cousins man. That dude has got to get a grip. After feeling like he was fouled a few times with no calls, he threw down a nasty dunk in the first quarter. He then grabbed the ball and threw a HOT chest pass right at the baseline official. How he didn’t get a tech, I do not know. But that guy’s immaturity is off the charts.
- Perk and Martin are both day-to-day with their injuries. Though if you think OKC’s just resting them with “injuries,” Brooks says they’re really hurt. Asked tonight if they could play if this was a must-win, Brooks said probably not.
- How about the emotional return of former Thunder great Cole Aldrich. I was hoping for a tribute video that only featured him sitting on the bench. Or maybe just him bumping into people while trying to figure out where to go on offense.
- Seriously though, Aldrich actually played an excellent game. In just 23 minutes he put up 12 points (on 6-6 shooting) and 13 rebounds.
- Ronnie Brewer ALMOST travels on every jumper. He’s within inches of landing before he releases the ball. It’s painful when he shoots.
- The Thunder had four airballs by my count tonight, and Brewer hit the side of the backboard. My opinion: Hitting the side of the backboard is worse than an airball.
- OK, I’m going to try and describe this really weird thing that happened: Westbrook and Isaiah Thomas were hit with double-technicals, and the two were carrying on about it. Westbrook had called a timeout so he was supposed to be going back to the bench. But he was still griping so ref David Guthrie got on him and told him to go back. Daniel Orton came over, put his hand on the ball, which Guthrie was holding, and basically told him to chill out. That’s right, he told Guthrie to chill, not Westbrook. It was surreal. I wish I was doing a better job of describing this.
- One of the biggest things holding Serge Ibaka back is his basketball IQ. Multiple times tonight he had to be told to screen or cut. He just doesn’t seem to always feel the game.
- KD missed two free throws tonight. On both, I shrieked. Almost there. #504090
- So excited for the Jones-Lamb-Jackson show on Wednesday.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via @mr_kylesmith: “KD and Russell singing in the key of ‘AAAHHHH!’”
Next up: The regular season finale Wednesday at home against the Bucks.