Thunder guard James Harden passed all stages of the NBA's concussion evaluation process and was cleared to play in Wednesday night's 106-101 loss against the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
However, with OKC's No. 2 playoff seed secured, coach Scott Brooks decided to delay Harden's return until Game 1 of the Thunder's opening-round playoff series, which will be at home either Saturday or Sunday.
As was the case with Tuesday night's game against Sacramento, Harden was not in the arena on Wednesday either.
WHO IS NO. 7?
Who will face the Thunder as the No. 7 seed remains in doubt heading into the final day of the regular season?
If Denver (37-28) wins at Minnesota on Thursday, the Nuggets clinch the No. 6 seed and would face the No. 3-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.
If Denver loses and Dallas (36-29) wins at Atlanta on Thursday, the Mavericks get the No. 6 seed by virtue of their 3-1 record against the Nuggets during the regular season.
Denver's victory against the Thunder clinched the No. 8 seed for Utah (35-30), which will face top-seeded San Antonio.
The other Western Conference playoff series will match the Los Angeles Clippers against the Memphis Grizzlies, with the home-court advantage yet to be determined.
When Thunder center Kendrick Perkins started flirting with the NBA limit for technical fouls several weeks ago, he vowed to never reach No. 13, which would have drawn a one-game suspension.
“I told you I wouldn't. You didn't believe me?” Perkins said with a smile before Wednesday's regular-season finale against Denver.
Perkins was in the clear when he survived Tuesday night's 118-110 victory over Sacramento without getting slapped with unlucky No. 13. Even had Perkins been hit with a technical on Wednesday, he would not have been suspended for the first playoff game because the slate is wiped cleaned for the postseason.
Perkins said the key to his survival is knowing when to back off.
“It's kind of like a child knowing how much he can push his parents,” said Perkins, who has two young sons. “It's like, ‘Daddy done got mad. I'm gonna chill out right now.'”
Perkins said he has reached the limit for technical fouls three times in his nine-year career, but has yet to receive a one-game suspension.
He paid $36,000 in fines for his 12 technical fouls this season – pending future fines in the postseason, of course.
“Yeah, that is a lot of money,” Perkins said, shaking his head.
This year's Oklahoma State women's basketball team received a standing ovation between the first and second quarters as it was honored as the Thunder's Devon Energy Community Heroes for the month of April.
Coach Jim Littell, his staff and the Cowgirls were recognized for their courage and strength in the face of adversity. OSU won the WNIT championship despite the deaths of coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna, who died in a plane crash while on a recruiting trip to Arkansas.
Entering the game, OKC led the league in free-throw percentage (.806) and made free throws (21.4), while Denver held a slight edge for the NBA lead in free-throw attempts (26.7 to 26.6).
On Wednesday, however, the Nuggets attempted twice as many free throws (30 to 15).
The Thunder was whistled for 26 fouls, but the damage was softened thanks to the Nuggets shooting just 60.0 percent (18 for 30).
OKC shot 86.7 percent from the line (13 for 15) to finish as the league's best free-throw shooting team for the second straight season.
During pre-game introductions, the Thunder unfurled its second straight Northwest Division champions banner. … The Nuggets outscored the Thunder in points in the paint (54-38), second-chance points (21-17) and fast-break points (21-16). Denver also had more rebounds (42-37), offensive boards (17-11) and scored 24 points off 18 OKC turnovers. … Thunder starting forward Serge Ibaka suffered a right hip contusion in the third quarter but returned to play the entire fourth quarter. … Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried started out 0 for 6 at the free-throw line and finished 1 for 7. … Seven Denver players scored in double-digits compared to just three for the Thunder – Kevin Durant with 32, Russell Westbrook with 30 and Ibaka with 15. … Westbrook and Ibaka each had four blocked shots. … OKC reserve guard Daequan Cook scored nine points, all on 3-pointers (3 for 6). … Brooks was hit with his fourth technical of the season.
Denver coach George Karl, on finishing either as the No. 6 or No. 7 seed: “I'm not saying we want the Lakers or that we want Oklahoma City. We just want to be playing as good of basketball as we can be playing.”