OKC Thunder clinches Western Conference's top seed

Thunder beats Sacramento Kings 104-95, earning its 60th win and No. 1 seed in the West. The top seed ensures Oklahoma City has home-court advantage through the conference finals.
By DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer Published: April 15, 2013


photo - Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) and Sacramento's Toney Douglas (0) react after Durant hit a 3-point shot and was fouled by Douglas during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) and Sacramento's Toney Douglas (0) react after Durant hit a 3-point shot and was fouled by Douglas during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

It was a night of firsts.

First, the Thunder dismantled the Sacramento Kings, coasting to a wire-to-wire 104-95 victory on Monday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, and then Oklahoma City, for the first time this season, could relax.

The Thunder wrapped up first place in the conference, assuring for the first time that Oklahoma City will have home-court advantage through the Western Conference Finals should it advance that far.

The victory also was the Thunder's 60th of the season, marking the first time the team has reached the 60-win plateau in the franchise's Oklahoma City era.

“It's a great accomplishment,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It's not something that we want to walk around and tell the world how good we are. That's not how we operate.”

But given the circumstances, nobody could blame the Thunder for beating its chest.

Oklahoma City now sits one game away from completing an impressive, if not improbable, regular season run that began five days after the blockbuster trade that sent James Harden to Houston and rocked the Thunder's championship-caliber core.

It was a deal that prompted many to count out the Thunder and, in very public ways, dismiss OKC as a championship contender. Those same critics said the West would go through the new look Los Angeles Lakers.

How'd that turn out?

“I'm excited about what we've done,” Brooks said. “We've had a really good regular season. We want to play well in the playoffs. We want to continue to build our team and build our habits and compete for a championship for many years.

“Sam (Presti) has built a team a great team of young players that are committed and always willing to do whatever it takes to push this team forward. When we made the trade early in the season, we didn't lack confidence. We knew we had enough in our locker room to push each other in practice and … move the team forward.”

The season finale is Wednesday against Milwaukee, and the Thunder opens postseason play Saturday or Sunday. Oklahoma City's opponent has yet to be determined.

Thanks to Monday's effort, however, the Thunder can sit back and prepare mentally and physically for whichever team these final days bring. Brooks said following Monday's game that his key players “are going to play very limited minutes” in the finale.

“We want to get our guys that are banged up healthy,” Brooks said. “That is the priority for every team in this league going into postseason.”