Thunder: OKC plans to go full tilt against Golden State, play starters for remainder of regular season
With the top seed in the West still up for grabs, the Thunder continues its West Coast road trip against Golden State at 9:30 tonight at Oracle Arena in Oakland after a 90-80 win against Utah on Tuesday.
Against the Jazz, Kevin Durant — who only took 10 shots — finished one assist shy of his fourth career triple-double. He posted 21 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in what was a well-played and efficient game for the Thunder.
Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-21 shooting, and Serge Ibaka chipped in with 16 points and eight rebounds.
With the loss, the Jazz are now tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth-and-final playoff spot in the Western Conference with only three games remaining on its schedule.
Utah did not look like a team fighting for its playoff life Tuesday, as the Jazz shot 39 percent from the field — including going 7-for-25 from 3-point range. The Jazz also committed 17 turnovers and looked incredibly lackadaisical throughout the game.
Oklahoma City's frontcourt of Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka made life hard for Utah's star big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, altering and blocking shots and making the two seem invisible in what was a must-win game for the Jazz.
While the Thunder silenced the Jazz, the Warriors clinched their second playoff berth in 19 seasons Tuesday, defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves, 105-89.
Golden State has been one of the NBA's most surprising teams this season. They stand at 45-33 and currently are locked in as the sixth seed in the West. Second-year head coach Mark Jackson has done an incredible job at keeping the Warriors — one of the leagues youngest teams — playing at a high level throughout the season.
At this point, the only thing the Thunder and Warriors have left to play for is playoff seeding, with the Thunder sitting a half game out of first in the West and the Warriors' leading the Houston Rockets by one game.
While it doesn't seem likely, the Thunder and Warriors could very well meet in the first round of the playoffs, which makes Thursday night's matchup a must-watch game. Warriors guard Stephen Curry, an emerging star in the league, will be key in Thursday's game. In the two teams’ last meeting, Curry struggled mightily — scoring only 14 points on 5-of-20 shooting.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks repeatedly has stated he has no plans to rest his starters down the stretch despite being guaranteed the two seed in the West. Brooks said he doesn't want his team playing at any pace other than what it’s used to.
Whether or not Golden State decides to rest its starters, expect Oklahoma City to come out playing its usual high-octane style of play in hopes of grabbing the top spot in the West.