With its place in the Western Conference standings sewn up and nothing left to play for, the Thunder took it easy.
The lone bit of intrigue remaining going into the last game of the regular season Wednesday night was whether Kevin Durant would secure his fourth consecutive scoring title.
He needed 70 points, and because he’s the best scorer on the planet, many believed Durant could have come close to putting up that number had he tried.
But he never got the chance.
Durant was held out of the Thunder’s 95-89 loss to Milwaukee, bringing his three-year run as the league’s leading scorer to an unceremonious end.
New York forward Carmelo Anthony took home the title, finishing with a 28.7-point scoring average, 0.6 points ahead of Durant.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks two days earlier playfully guaranteed that Durant wouldn’t secure the scoring title, saying his star had “no shot.” It helped that Brooks had inside information. Brooks didn’t even bite when asked before the game how close Durant would have needed to be to Anthony in order to be given a shot to join Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to lead the league in scoring four straight seasons.
“It’s something that is never talked about,” Brooks said., “If Kevin really, really wanted to win the scoring title he would have done that many weeks ago, and he wouldn’t have been trying to get triple-doubles and putting his teammates in the position of getting easy buckets. He’s a scorer. He can score 35 points a game if he really wanted to focus on it, like three or four other guys in this league.”
Instead, the Thunder allowed Durant to rest up and ready himself for what many expect to be a deep playoff run.
“The rest is going to do him some good. It gives him (a few days) off. That’s very rare you can have that time off,” Brooks said. “None of his (injury) concerns are serious, but they’re nagging things that you can play through. And we put ourselves in this position ... So that’s the only reason why he’s getting off.”
As he sat nattily attired on the bench, alongside teammates Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Martin and Nick Collison, all of whom also were held out, Durant watched his team’s second and third stringers nearly secure a victory.
But the Bucks outscored the Thunder 50-38 in the second half, closing the game on a 38-21 run over the final 15 minutes, 14 seconds.
Reggie Jackson scored a team- and career-high 23 points with six rebounds and five assists to lead the Thunder. Rookie forward Perry Jones III added a career-high 14 points and nine rebounds. Jeremy Lamb finished with 13 points in 41 minutes, both career highs. “They don’t get to play a lot … but when they get an opportunity they’ve always seemed to rise to the occasion and play well,” Brooks said of his team’s young players.
Bucks rookie forward John Henson scored 28 points with 16 rebounds, both game highs, and Brandon Jennings chipped in 17 points for Milwaukee.
Oklahoma City finished the season 60-22, and will go into this weekend’s playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
The Thunder will play Game 1 of the first round Sunday inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.