By Randy Renner
While a lot of playoff bound NBA teams will be resting their starters tonight, or at least limiting their minutes, the Thunder can't afford that luxury if they want to secure the #2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
"A lot of people put an emphasis on seeding but we just wanna play our best basketball at the right time," Thunder superstar Kevin Durant told reporters today after shootaround. "But you also do wanna have a Game 7 on your home court."
Durant expects to play tonight against the Detroit Pistons along with the four other regular starters and he said the team's mindset is simple. "Just win, just play to win, I mean we need this game especially after two tough losses."
That is precisely why the Thunder need to win. Losing at Indiana was understandable and who knows might end up working in the Thunder's favor in the long run, provided the Thunder make a long run in the playoffs. But losing at New Orleans was a shocker and made this game tonight a must win.
"I know they're (the Pistons) gonna come in and play hard," said Caron Butler. "So we can't overlook them or look past them, we still have to handle business and that's what you want, your destiny in your own hands."
Of course the same scenario was in place Monday. The Thunder could have handled their business then and be able to rest or play without any pressure tonight.
"Communication is key," said Butler "and we lacked a lot of that in the last game. But it's all things we can control so that's a good thing."
I'm not sure I'm buying that last part because we heard communication was the problem on defense earlier this season when Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins were both out. We were told then it's a correctable problem.
Apparently one that hasn't been corrected yet.
Beating a Pistons squad that is just 7-23 since the middle of February shouldn't be that much of a problem but they will trot out a much better lineup tonight than the Thunder lost to in New Orleans on Monday.
Andre Drummond has become one of the best rebounders in the NBA and has pulled down at least 20 rebounds in seven games this season. He and Greg Monroe will be a load down low. Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings can be threats if they get hot and the Thunder have had problems defensing the perimeter.
A win tonight though gets the Thunder to where most figured they would be the #2 seed in the West. What that gets for an opponent will be decided in Memphis. If the Grizzlies beat Dallas then they'll be here in Oklahoma City this weekend. If the Mavs win on the road then that's who comes calling.
We'll know for sure by the end of the night.