With nearly two-thirds of the regular season in the books, the Thunder again finds itself in a tight race with San Antonio for the top seed in the Western Conference.
Prior to Tuesday's game at Utah, the Thunder trailed the Spurs by just one game for first place. San Antonio is 41-12. Oklahoma City was 39-12 before playing the Jazz.
The team that finishes with the best record will earn home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference Finals. Last season, the Spurs finished three games ahead of OKC but relinquished both home-court advantage and a trip to the NBA Finals when they lost four straight games to the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
For now, though, securing the top seed isn't the Thunder's focus.
“Of course coming toward the playoffs you always want to be the best team,” said Kevin Durant. “You want to have that home-court advantage. But right now, we're just trying to focus on us every single day and how we can be better and playing up to our standard, which is defense first. These last two or three games have been really great for us on the defensive end and setting the tone. So we got to keep it up.”
MARTIN RETURNS AFTER ONE-GAME ABSENCE
Guard Kevin Martin returned to the lineup Tuesday against Utah after missing Sunday's game at Phoenix with flu-like symptoms.
His return provided a big boost to the Thunder's bench, which had struggled mightily in the two games Martin has missed this season.
In a game at Minnesota, the Thunder's reserves scored just seven points when Martin missed the game with a thigh bruise. Oklahoma City lost by six. Against the Suns on Sunday night, the bench scored just three points through three quarters. The Thunder won that game by 28 points, however, and the bench ultimately scored 23 points in the blowout.
MAYNOR MORE MOBILE WITHOUT KNEE BRACE
Reserve guard Eric Maynor has taken another step in his recovery from a torn ACL. Maynor recently shed the bulky knee brace that he's had to play with since being cleared to resume full-contact activities.
Maynor said losing the heavy contraption has made him feel as good as he has felt since suffering the injury in January 2012. In the two games prior to Tuesday's against the Jazz, Maynor certainly has looked more mobile, scoring 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting with four assists.
“I just think he's been moving much better as the season has progressed,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Like any player that has had a major injury, it takes time. … I think as the season has gone along he's feeling much more confident. … He's been terrific the last four or five games when I've put him in.”
Jeremy Lamb remains on the inactive list while recovering from a low back strain. The rookie guard was selected to play in the D-League All-Star Game at All-Star Weekend in Houston this weekend. But the injury has put his participation in question. … Kendrick Perkins was called for a technical foul and a flagrant foul within a 1 1/2-minute span in the second quarter. He was whistled for a technical for jawing with Jazz guard Earl Watson, and he then received a flagrant 1 foul for inadvertently elbowing Jazz center Al Jefferson in the head. … The Thunder had four turnovers in the first four minutes Tuesday and 14 at halftime.