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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

Despite missing starting center Kendrick Perkins (hamstring) and sixth man Kevin Martin (back) for the second consecutive game, as well as Derek Fisher (foot), the Thunder had little trouble with a Kings team has never had a winning record this season and never won in Oklahoma City.

Kevin Durant scored a game-high 29 points with seven rebounds and eight assists to lead the Thunder. Russell Westbrook compiled 21 points, five rebounds and eight assists before being ejected with 2:24 left to play following his second technical foul. Serge Ibaka added 14 points, and Daniel Orton and Reggie Jackson chipped in 10 points apiece off the bench.

“I thought it was a good team win,” Brooks said.

The Thunder bumped its record to 28-3 when five players score in double figures.

For the third straight game, Oklahoma City owned the third quarter. The Thunder extended an 11-point halftime lead to as many as 24 before taking an 83-67 lead into the fourth quarter. OKC used a balanced attack to pull away, getting seven points in the third period from Durant, five points apiece from Westbrook and Orton, four points each from Ibaka and Jackson and two points apiece from Thabo Sefolosha and Hasheem Thabeet.

The Thunder had seven assists on 12 made field goals in the quarter and has now outscored its last three opponents 91-54 in the third quarter.

“We were locked in,” Durant said. “We were trying to get great shots every time down and trying to play good defense and keep them out the paint. Coming into halftime, we talked about it and looked at some film. Transition defense wasn't as good as we needed it to be so we just tried to make it an emphasis to get back and move the ball.”

And so here we are, with 81 games in the books and the dawn of a new season on the horizon. Regardless of what happened throughout this regular season, be it back in late October or on this notable April night, this weekend will be the start of a new journey — a journey that since June has been about one thing and one thing only.

Redemption.

“We're still going to be judged by how we do in the playoffs,” said Nick Collison. “We realize that, and that's what's important to us also.”

Of all the firsts that will define what's been a special, special season, for the Thunder there's still only one that truly matters.

Now it's time to make it happen.