With 10 games left in the regular season, Thunder coach Scott Brooks has no plans on resting any of his players in an attempt to enter the postseason rested and working with a clean bill of health.
But if the Thunder plays like it did Sunday night, rest won't be a problem.
The Thunder trounced Toronto, 91-75, inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, snapping a three-game skid by using a 24-0 run to turn what was a ho-hum game for 21/2 quarters into borderline humiliation for the Raptors.
Thabo Sefolosha was the only Thunder starter who logged any minutes in the fourth quarter, as OKC built its lead to as many as 27 before turning the page to Milwaukee on Monday night.
“If we keep winning like this, I'll get a rest,” said Russell Westbrook, who played just 27 minutes.
Brooks has never subscribed to sitting players. He has likened the strategy to “cheating the game” and the fans. And on Sunday, he confessed that his team's youth plays a part as well.
“If we had a bunch of veteran guys in their 30s, there's no question things would be different,” Brooks said. “But our guys, if you take out some of the guys, they'll think I'm benching them twice a game. They want to play every minute. They love to play and they want to keep playing. It's like pulling teeth to get five or six minutes out of them per half.”
Yet in a condensed season, fatigue, both mental and physical, can and at times has been an issue. Though the lockout slashed 16 contests off every team's schedule, the slate of games has been unrelenting all season. Games have been squeezed tighter together, and the Thunder has been one of the fortunate franchise's that has avoided a rash of major injuries.
When you consider that Westbrook (35.9), James Harden (31.9) and Serge Ibaka (27.2) all are averaging a career-high in minutes, it's natural to wonder how their bodies will hold up down the stretch and into the postseason. Kendrick Perkins' minutes, meanwhile, are up from last year.
But Brooks has resisted rest and insists he will continue to do so.
“I always focus on the game and not focus on the minutes,” Brooks said. “I always believe that guys can muster up enough energy to win an NBA game (even if) it's a back-to-back.”
“If the guys need to play 40 minutes, they have to play it … I'm not worried about the minutes. I'm worried about how we play and how we can get better the last two weeks.”
Of course, there is plenty left to play for in these final 10 games and plenty that the Thunder needs to improve.
Oklahoma City still has a chance to earn home-court advantage through the NBA Finals, so each of the final 10 remains critical. Additionally, the team could stand to use the home stretch to shore up its deficiencies, which, at times, has included rebounding, turnovers and half-court offense.
“We're continuing to try to build consistency,” said Nick Collison. “The NBA's crazy that way. Four games ago we were playing our best basketball. And then we lose three straight.
“It's a fine line between winning and losing. We just got to keep recognizing what's good for us and try and recreate that over and over again.”
It's enough to force the Thunder to stick to the script.
Then again, Brooks knows better than to try to rest his hoop addicts.
“He knows not to do that,” said Kevin Durant.