Roughly 20 minutes before the Thunder hosted the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, the NBA announced Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace would be suspended for seven games without pay for elbowing James Harden in the head on Sunday.
“The concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement. “We remain committed to taking necessary measures to protect the safety of NBA players, including the imposition of appropriate penalties for players with a history of on-court altercations.”
Harden has yet to pass the league's evaluation testing for concussions and did not play in the Thunder's 118-110 victory over the Kings. His status remains day-to-day for Wednesday night's season finale against Denver at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The suspension will begin with the Lakers' next game at Sacramento on Thursday. The remaining games of the suspension will be served during the next six games in which the player is eligible and physically able to play, including this season's playoffs.
Afterward, OKC players and coaches had little reaction to World Peace's suspension, saying it was the league's decision and they accept it.
“Right now, we're not focused on that anymore,” said Thunder reserve guard Daequan Cook, who scored all 19 of his points in the fourth quarter. “We know it's about James getting healthy and getting right for the postseason.”
COOK ON FIRE
Cook shot 6 for 9 from the field and 4 for 5 from 3-point range in his heroic fourth-quarter performance that essentially won the game for the Thunder.
OKC coach Scott Brooks said what he liked most about Cook's performance was him not getting gun-shy after his missed his first two shots of the game.
“He didn't get down on himself,” Brooks said. “He came back and stayed aggressive. DC is a terrific shooter, but he has to continue to believe in that shot and keep shooting it. The last five or six games when he missed a shot, he kind of got down on himself. If you do that, you can never make the next shot. It's always about the next shot if you're a shooter like he is. I like the fact that he came back and hit a bunch of big shots for us.”
As part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation event, Putnam City North senior golfer Lorelei Decker served as the Thunder's coach Tuesday.
The 17-year-old Decker was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in late January. Survival rate for Decker's type of cancer is 80 percent or better, and the family has been encouraged by recent blood tests. Decker spent Tuesday morning with players and coaches.
“She's very down to earth, a lot of energy,” All-Star Kevin Durant said of Decker. “She's someone that we really enjoy here. She did a great job. She wasn't shy. She just told us what we needed to do better as a team. She said we need to rebound better. She was good, man. I'm happy that she came out to help us out. She made me step up my level a little bit. She was great.”
Brooks said: “Lorelei was terrific. After that last Lakers game (a double-overtime loss Sunday), I'm looking for assistant coaches. She's good. She has an incredible passion for our team, which was really fun to see. She spent an hour and half in our coach's meeting and telling us what we need to work on. We were all listening and she nails it. You can tell that she's watched our games and she's a fan of our players.
“She talked about being a physical team. She said you need to do that more. She talked about (Kendrick) Perkins needs to chill out on his technicals. She nailed it. She nailed everything. The only thing she didn't talk about was turnovers. Whatever she needed, we were going to let her do. She was terrific.”
Perkins has changed his tune.
Initially the only Thunder player to defend World Peace's vicious elbow to Harden immediately after Sunday's game, Perkins on Tuesday reversed course and called World Peace out of line.
“During the game, I didn't really get a chance to see the play until I got home that night,” Perkins said. “And that was just uncalled for. So I really don't have any sympathy for a guy that does something like that. He could have really hurt James in a serious way. Anytime you do an intentional blow like that to the head it's just uncalled for.”
Durant said before Tuesday's game that he expects Harden to be available for the Thunder's first-round playoff series.
“Seeing him (Tuesday), he looked good,” Durant said. “So we'll see.”
Royal Ivey added that Harden is in “good spirits” and Durant said the sixth man seemed to be his normal self.
“Just seeing him around, he was cool,” Durant said. “He looked fine and was talking fine. It's just a matter of whenever the doctor's clear him. Hopefully everything”'s fine.”
If OKC and Miami finish the regular season with the same records and advance to the NBA Finals, the Thunder would get home-court advantage in the NBA Finals by virtue of having a better record against the opposing conference. OKC went 13-5 against the East and the Heat went 11-7 against the West. The team split 1-1 in the regular season.
The Thunder likely will unveil its second straight Northwest Division championship banner before Wednesday night's season finale against Denver. … Russell Westbrook (1 for 7) and Durant (0 for 3) were a combined 1 for 10 from the field in the second quarter. … OKC 15-3 after a loss this season. Only Chicago has a better record at 15-1. … Despite Tuesday's game having no bearing on the Thunder's No. 2 playoff seed and Sacramento entering with a 21-43 record, the Thunder's home sellout streak remains alive at 46 straight, including all 32 home games this season. … Thunder is 26-6 at The Peake. San Antonio and Miami have the league's best home records at 28-5.