OKC Thunder: Everyone but the Thunder — or so players say — is keeping track of standings

If Oklahoma City’s recent struggles continue, it could drop to third place in the Western Conference standings and face tougher playoff matchups.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 7, 2014
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photo - Coach Scott Brooks and the Oklahoma City Thunder enter Tuesday’s game at Sacramento just a game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed. 
                  Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Coach Scott Brooks and the Oklahoma City Thunder enter Tuesday’s game at Sacramento just a game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Jeff Hornacek admitted to something the Thunder seems to never confess.

“Everybody’s looking at where they are in the standings,” the Suns coach said Sunday.

At this point in the year, Hornacek said, every game feels like a must-win.

“It doesn’t really matter who you’re playing,” Hornacek added. “If you’re playing a lottery team, they want to beat a playoff team. And then if you’re playing another playoff team, they’re most of the time looking at position. So there are always tough games this time of year.”

Oklahoma City came up short in Sunday’s game, struggling again to showcase sharp defense before falling 122-115 to a Suns squad Thunder coach Scott Brooks labeled “desperate.”

“They’re fighting for their playoff lives,” Brooks said.

All of a sudden, the Thunder essentially must do the same.

Oklahoma City enters Tuesday game at Sacramento just a game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 3 seed. The Thunder still holds a two-game lead over L.A. in the loss column, but the Clippers already own a 2-1 series lead, which makes Wednesday’s meeting between the two teams inside Staples Center all the more pivotal.

If the Thunder surrenders second place, OKC would go from having homecourt advantage for the first two rounds to a likely second-round series against the Clippers with L.A. holding homecourt advantage. The Thunder also would fall out of a more favorable first-round matchup such as Dallas or Phoenix and into a more dangerous series against the likes of Golden State.

It’s become a reality that didn’t seem possible just weeks ago.

But the Thunder’s post-All-Star break slump has put it in this position where seeding suddenly matters. Not long ago, the Thunder was cruising along as the top seed in the West. A 12-9 record since the break, however, has allowed San Antonio to run away with the top seed and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.


by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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