Scott Brooks isn’t hiding his feelings.
He wants the Western Conference’s top seed, which comes with homecourt advantage throughout the West playoffs.
“If you ask me if I’d rather have a choice to have four home games over three, yes, I’d rather have that,” the Thunder coach said Monday.
In order to get it, Oklahoma City must find a way to catch San Antonio in the standings.
The Spurs have been red hot, winning a league-best 18 straight entering Monday’s game at Indiana. But the Thunder has a chance to disrupt that rhythm and gain some ground in Thursday’s showdown against San Antonio inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
OKC is 3 1/2 games back of San Antonio but already owns the tiebreaker over the Spurs. A win Thursday would cut another game off the Spurs’ lead.
But the Thunder will need some help. It’ll need San Antonio to cool off.
And a stiff schedule for the Spurs this week could be just what OKC needs.
Following their road game at Indiana on Monday, the Spurs returned home to prepare for Golden State on Wednesday. San Antonio will then come to town on the second night of a back-to-back. The Spurs end the week with Memphis on Sunday.
It’s the toughest stretch the Spurs have had in their current scorching streak.
From there, the Spurs end the season with games against Minnesota, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers. Three of those final five are in the playoff hunt.
The Thunder has a relatively easier finish, although four of the next five come on the road. But Oklahoma City is 14-3 against its final eight opponents. It’s a success rate that suggests Thunder still has a good chance to claim the top seed.
If the Spurs cool off.
“It’s always good to have the best record, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t,” Brooks said. “It doesn’t guarantee nothing other than if there’s a Game 7 it’s in your building. If you had a choice to have a Game 7, you want it in your building. I mean, there’s no question that’s important. But you’re going to have to win on your home floor and you’re going to have to win on the opponent’s floor.”
Of course, the Thunder took down the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals two years ago without homecourt advantage. San Antonio was the top seed during the 2011-12 season and won the first two games before OKC closed the series with four straight wins. The series never saw a Game 7.
On the flip side, the Thunder finished in first place last season but saw its postseason run derailed by Russell Westbrook’s knee injury. San Antonio, the 2-seed, then represented the West in the Finals.
So like Brooks said, the top seed doesn’t guarantee anything.
But you’d rather have it.
And the Thunder still has a chance to get it.
“If it doesn’t happen,” Brooks said, “we still have a great opportunity to play good basketball.”