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News » THE MAIN EVENT 2009-03-26


THE MAIN EVENT 2009-03-26


THE MAIN EVENT 2009-03-26
The Thunder won't make the NBA playoffs its first year in Oklahoma City.

But they can influence which teams reach the postseason and where they'll be seeded.

Nine of the Thunder's final dozen games are against playoff contenders.

"It's an exciting time of year," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "Our players understand that. I don't know if we're going in trying to be everybody's spoiler. But we want to be able to compete and get after every team we play. These are games you learn from."

Similar to last season, the Western Conference is a jumbled mess with less than a month left.

Only four games separate six teams between the Nos. 2 and 8 seeds.

"With everything so tight and teams trying to get every win they can, it's fun when you beat one of them and spoil the party a little bit," said the Thunder's Kyle Weaver. "I'm sure some teams think they can come in here and just roll over on us."

That was the case a couple of months ago.

But most visiting teams now comment that the Thunder no longer is a guaranteed win, especially in the Ford Center.

Oklahoma City owns home wins over San Antonio, Dallas, Portland and Utah.

The Thunder also has defeated Eastern Conference playoff contenders Philadelphia and Detroit and Chicago.

"We're just trying to concentrate on what we're doing," said Nick Collison. "I don't have motivation to mess somebody up. But when you beat teams like that, those are good wins for us because we're beating good teams."

Jeff Green said he treats every game the same but is encouraged the Thunder is 17-21 since New Year's Eve, a significant improvement compared to a 3-29 start.

"I just want to win," Green said. "I never really think about playing spoiler. Beating good teams gives you a big confidence boost. To me, they're all the same."

That's what players are supposed to say. But Thunder players celebrated last week after a win over perennial power San Antonio.

That didn't happen after Oklahoma City defeated the hapless Washington Wizards.

"I think that was more for our fans," Green said. "You have the Texas triangle. A lot of people might have rooted for Dallas and San Antonio, but now they have their own team. That's big to beat those teams (geographically) close to us."

Whether the Thunder is mired in a seven-game, February losing streak or a recent stretch in which Oklahoma City was 5-1 without leading scorer Kevin Durant, Brooks all season has preached improving in practices and games.

"I'm sure other teams (ROOT for us), but we're more focused on our guys and getting better," Brooks said. "If you're doing it for the right reasons, you should be excited about whoever you're playing."

NEW YEAR SURGES

Scouting Syracuse

Since the calendar flipped to 2009, the Thunder has been one of the most pesky non-playoff opponents for teams trying to improve their postseason seeding.

The Pacers and Knicks are the only non-playoff teams with more wins in January, February and March against teams in position to qualify for the postseason.

The following chart is each non-playoff team's win-loss record since Jan. 1 vs. the 16 teams currently seeded Nos. 1 through 8 in the Western and Eastern conferences.

Team Overall Home Road 1. New York 8-12 6-5 2-7 2. Indiana 8-13 8-3 0-10 3. Okla. City 7-14 6-8 1-6 4. Charlotte 6-13 4-4 2-9 5. Milwaukee 6-14 5-8 1-6 6. Phoenix 6-14 4-5 2-9 7. Golden State 6-12 5-5 1-7 8. New Jersey 6-17 5-6 1-11 9. Toronto 4-15 3-7 1-8 10. Memphis 4-18 3-10 1-8 11. Minnesota 4-17 2-9 2-8 12. LA Clippers 2-16 1-7 1-9 13. Sacramento 2-17 2-7 0-10 14. Washington 2-19 2-7 0-12

NEW YEAR SURGES

Scouting Syracuse

Since the calendar flipped to 2009, the Thunder has been one of the most pesky non-playoff opponents for teams trying to improve their postseason seeding.

The Pacers and Knicks are the only non-playoff teams with more wins in January, February and March against teams in position to qualify for the postseason.

The following chart is each non-playoff team's win-loss record since Jan. 1 vs. the 16 teams currently seeded Nos. 1 through 8 in the Western and Eastern conferences.

Team Overall Home Road 1. New York 8-12 6-5 2-7 2. Indiana 8-13 8-3 0-10 3. Okla. City 7-14 6-8 1-6 4. Charlotte 6-13 4-4 2-9 5. Milwaukee 6-14 5-8 1-6 6. Phoenix 6-14 4-5 2-9 7. Golden State 6-12 5-5 1-7 8. New Jersey 6-17 5-6 1-11 9. Toronto 4-15 3-7 1-8 10. Memphis 4-18 3-10 1-8 11. Minnesota 4-17 2-9 2-8 12. LA Clippers 2-16 1-7 1-9 13. Sacramento 2-17 2-7 0-10 14. Washington 2-19 2-7 0-12

THE Thunder EFFECT

Nine of the Thunder's final dozen games are against teams either fighting for a playoff berth or trying to improve playoff positioning.

→Tuesday: LA Lakers. Kobe and the Lakers all but have the top seed in the West wrapped up.

→Sunday: at Boston. Defending champions are in danger of falling to the No. 3 seed in the East.

→March 31: at San Antonio. Spurs trying to hold on to the No. 2 seed in highly competitive West.

→April 3: Portland. Trail Blazers one of seven West teams that can finish between Nos. 2 and 8.

→April 7: San Antonio. One of only two teams that plays the Thunder twice the final four weeks.

→April 8: at Denver. Nuggets are one of seven West teams that can finish between Nos. 2 and 8.

→April 10: Charlotte. The Bobcats are only one game out in the loss column for the No. 8 seed in the East.

→April 11: at Milwaukee. Bucks are hanging in contention for final East berth despite many injuries.

→April 13: at Portland. Besides Spurs, the other team that plays Thunder twice the final three weeks.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 26, 2009

 

 
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