Thunder Facing "Must Win" Game Tonight

By Randy Renner

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Thunder coach Scott Brooks likes to treat each game the same way he treats every other game, just one of 82.

No more important and no less.

Except for tonight.

"If there's a must win game in an 82 game schedule it's tonight," he said during his pregame chat with reporters. "We have to win."

Actually even if the Thunder lose tonight, they won't be toast unless New Orleans also beats Minnesota. Okay right, the Pelicans are big favorites but there is a reason they play the games.

If the Thunder can win tonight they will be alive in the playoff chase all the way to Wednesday, even if New Orleans wins too.

Then OKC will make it in if the Thunder beat Minnesota and the Pelicans lose to San Antonio. If both the Thunder and Pels win out, or lose out, New Orleans goes to the playoffs the Thunder have to get one more win than the Pels or one less loss if you prefer.

Two games are left. The Thunder hosting Portland tonight and playing at Minnesota on Wednesday and New Orleans playing at the Timberwolves tonight and hosting the Spurs on Wednesday.

San Antonio has only the Wednesday date with the Pelicans left and the word out of the Alamo City is that the Spurs will play their regular guys and try to win the game in order to possibly win the Southwest Divison and get to second in the Western Conference.

The Thunder picked up a couple of breaks today. The NBA home office rescinded Russell Westbrook's 16th technical from last night game at Indy. If it hadn't Westbrook would be suspended for tonight's game and the Thunder's desperate situation would have become almost impossible.

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Then today Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts announced he would sit All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge so he can continue to rest his sore foot. Shooting guard Arron Afflalo won't play tonight either because of a sore shoulder and Wesley Matthews has been out for a while.

Aldridge and Afflalo have each hurt the Thunder in the past but neither will play, Westbrook has torched the Blazers for an average of 39 points a game this season, the most against any team.

It sets up pretty good for OKC, though they can't let Damian Lillard go off for a big number and they MUST hit their free throws tonight. 17 misses from the stripe at Indy was just ridiculous and a repeat pathetic performance from there can't happen tonight.

It should be interesting and as usual we'll be here with complete coverage, including live updates on our Twitter feed page from all of us here at the arena and then postgame video and blogs.

Randy Renner