Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks admits that it doesn’t matter whom his team is matched up with in the first round of the playoffs, even if it is the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
“I’m not one to manipulate who we play and who we don’t play,” Brooks said. “You play who you play. If you win the championship you have to go through four really good teams.”
Oklahoma City entered Wednesday night locked into the number two seed in the Western Conference. Their final opponent, the Denver Nuggets, came in amidst a battle with the Mavericks for the seventh and eighth seeds. The game mattered for both teams.
The Thunder entered the fourth quarter Tuesday night against Sacramento down four, yet Oklahoma City’s starters didn’t see the floor. The Thunder’s second team outplayed Sacramento’s first team and led them to the win. Brooks commented after the game that he had an idea the starters wouldn’t play before the game.
Brooks changed it up in the fourth quarter against Denver. He allowed four of his starters to play much of the frame, including Serge Ibaka, who played all 12 minutes.
Brooks said that Kevin Durant told him he wanted to stay in, so he let him most of the final period. Durant entered the game fighting Kobe Bryant for the league’s scoring title. He finished with 32 points in just over 40 minutes. Bryant will have to score 38 in the Lakers final game to pass Durant.
“We didn’t end the season the way we wanted to,” Durant said. “But the regular season is out the door and now it’s time to worry about the playoffs. We’ve got another level we can get to. I probably won’t watch (Kobe). If I don’t win the scoring title or MVP that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good year by my standards. I’ve got better in every area I’ve worked on and I score a few points.”
The Dallas Mavericks will have the final say in who will be the Thunder’s first round opponent. If Dallas wins, they will play the Thunder, if Dallas loses, the Nuggets will play the Thunder.
Oklahoma City went 3-1 against the Mavericks in the regular season and 2-1 against the Nuggets. Denver won the final game in Oklahoma City, but the Mavericks and Nuggets each failed to win a game at the Chesapeake Energy Arena during heart of the regular season.
“It’s a new season,” Durant said. “It’s time to get ready and get locked in. At this point, it doesn’t matter who we play.”