The Thunder currently hold a record of 48-17, a game back of the Spurs for the best overall mark in the league.
Finishing the year on top of that race would guarantee home court advantage throughout the playoffs and into the Finals should OKC make it that far, and it’s a goal most teams would kill to have a shot of reaching at this late stage of the season.
But keeping the big picture in mind, the Thunder aren’t planning on going all out to get there.
With a high volume of back-to-back sets the rest of the way, the team is more concerned with preserving its stars for a postseason run, which means willingly taking Russell Westbrook out of the lineup for a handful of games the rest of the way.
From Randy Renner of NBA.com:
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s closing schedule is heavy with back-to-back sets, six of them over the last month of the season, and Thunder head coach Scott Brooks on Saturday said once again that point guard Russell Westbrook will not play in both games of “some” of those sets.
“We have a plan in place” as to which games Westbrook will sit , said Brooks, but he wouldn’t reveal it Saturday after practice.”I’ll let you know at the appropriate time,” he added. …
“We had a plan in place early on when we brought him back and we wanna stick with that,” Brooks said. “We just wanna, while we can, get some time where he can rest in between games.”
There’s been no word of Westbrook experiencing any swelling or discomfort in his surgically-repaired knee, so this appears to be an overly-cautious maneuver by Brooks and the team’s medical staff.
The Thunder play back-to-backs sets over their next four games, the first of which comes at home against Dallas on Sunday and then on the road in Chicago the very next night. The killer set comes on April 3 and 4, at home against the Spurs followed by a road trip in Houston.
We’ll see what the standings look like when each of these games approaches to see if things change, but it appears as though Brooks has already made up his mind.