Playoff Seed, Opponent Still Undecided
By Randy Renner
We've made it to the last day of the NBA's regular season and there's still much to be decided when it comes to the Thunder's playoff situation.
The simplest answers to the questions are a Thunder win tonight against Detroit secures the #2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and the Thunder would start that run by hosting the winner of tonight's Dallas-Memphis game.
Things could get a tad complicated if OKC can't knockoff the Pistons.
The Los Angeles Clippers are just a game behind the Thunder after their win against Denver last night and at the moment they have the tie-breaker based on a better record against Western Conference opponents.
However, the Clippers are in Portland now for their regular season finale against the Trail Blazers. Clippers forward Blake Griffin didn't make the trip and so he won't play tonight. Griffin picked up his 16th technical foul of the season last night and would have been suspended for tonight's game if the NBA upheld the call.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers decided he'd rather have Griffin stay home and rest his many bumps and bruises and not play in the game anyway. Sharpshooter J.J. Redick didn't fly with the team either for the same reason.
Rivers has also indicated Chris Paul may not play very much tonight. The Trail Blazers are already locked in to the #5 seed, they can't move up or down tonight so Blazers coach Terry Stotts probably won't play his starters their regular minutes.
So who knows how that game could end up.
The Thunder probably don't want to risk it and will play their normal lineup tonight in the hopes of beating Detroit and securing that 2nd seed. If they fall to 3rd their opponent would be the Golden State Warriors who are locked into the 6th spot.
That Mavs-Griz game tonight might be interesting to watch also because of how either of those teams feels about its upcoming playoff opponent. Would they rather play the Thunder? Or would they prefer the Spurs? If it's the Spurs then either or both the Mavericks and Grizzlies might sit their main players.
So who know how that one might end up.
For the Thunder the big thing about maintaining the #2 seed is that it will guarantee them homecourt advantage in a likely second round matchup with the Clippers.
First of course they would have to get past Dallas or Memphis. The Thunder is 1-2 against Dallas and 3-1 against Memphis. The Mavs shoot the 3-ball really well and the Thunder have struggled defending from beyond the arc at times. The Grizzlies aren't much of a threat from three but they can be powerful down low with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
The conventional wisdom is the Thunder would prefer a matchup with the Mavs rather than what would likely be a grueling, physical battle with the Griz.
Tonight the Detroit Pistons come in after having fired their coach and forcing their GM to resign.
The Pistons are just 29-52 overall and they've been even worse lately with a 7-23 mark since February 12th.
The Pistons will bring a much more talented lineup than what New Orleans trotted out on Monday night and we saw how that ended up so Detroit cannot be taken lightly if the Thunder are serious about that #2 seed.
It's believed the Thunder will put their regular starting five on the court tonight but we won't know for sure until head coach Scott Brooks meets with reporters about two hours before tipoff. Kevin Durant usually speaks to reporters after Thunder shootaround so we should be able to find out if he's playing tonight then.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 and you can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma.