Tonight’s game between the Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs is essentially a one-game playoff for the top seed in the Western Conference. If the Spurs win, they hold a 2.5 game lead over Oklahoma City with six games to go. If the Thunder win, it’s a half-game lead and OKC holds the tiebreaker (conference record because the season series would be tied 2-2).
The Thunder schedule from now until the end of the season is not too bad and they control their own destiny. They’ve never had that top seed, and with that goal in their sights, they’re not going to give it up too easily.
“We want to get the best seed possible. We're not going to shy away from that,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen. Just because you have the 1 or the 2 seed that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to advance. It's always nice to have an extra game, if needed, on your home floor. Especially our floor. It's such an important part of our success with the fan base that we have.”
The Thunder are a younger team so they can afford to sacrifice a little extra rest to go for home-court advantage. The Spurs have said many times that the health and status of their players takes priority, and that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they were the two seed.
In my opinion, the Thunder need the home court more than the Spurs do. With the loss of James Harden, Oklahoma City is not as good as they were last year. On the other hand, I think a well-rested and healthy Spurs team is better than last year. Is it enough of a difference to make the Spurs a favorite in a seven-game series? That’s a really tough call to make.
I’m sure Spurs fans would like to see a hypothetical Game 7 against the Thunder in San Antonio, but they also know the Spurs are capable of getting a big-time win on the road when it counts. Right now, the Spurs need to focus on getting healthy and back to top form and let Oklahoma City feel the pressure of finishing at the top of the West.