The Oklahoma City Thunder is back in the driver's seat.
After a 97-75 win at Indiana on Friday, the Thunder moved into a tie with San Antonio for first place in the Western Conference standings. Both teams were 55-20 following Friday's games, although the Spurs hosted Atlanta on Saturday night. Still, the Thunder can secure the top spot and home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs even if both teams win out.
Because both teams lead their respective divisions and the four-game season series ended in a split, the next tiebreaker in the event both teams finished with an identical record would be conference won-loss record. The Thunder could finish as high as 39-13 against West teams, while the Spurs can only get to 37-15.
But the Thunder continues to insist that these last six games are about getting better rather than securing the top spot.
“It's one of those things that it's great that it's happened, but we're not focusing on it,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of catching the Spurs. “We just want to continue to play good basketball and hopefully we continue to do that.”
Nick Collison reiterated that playoff seeding is important but added that the team continuing its current level of play is more significant.
“We like how we're playing,” Collison said. “A few games ago in Minnesota we played awful and we didn't feel good about how we were playing. But now, we played OK in Milwaukee and got a win, but these last two games we feel like we're playing at a really high level and that's where we want to keep it the rest of the way going into the playoffs.”
DURANT, ANTHONY LINKED THROUGH HISTORY
Durant and New York forward Carmelo Anthony are battling for this year's scoring title and have been linked for roughly a decade.
Both grew up in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area and played one season at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.
During his high school days at Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md., Durant often was compared to Anthony, who played at Towson (Md.) Catholic.
Each played one season in college — Durant at Texas and Anthony at Syracuse — before entering the NBA Draft.
Anthony won the 2003 national title at Syracuse, beating Collison and his Kansas Jayhawks, 81-78, in New Orleans. Anthony finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Collison had 19 points, 21 rebounds, three blocks, three steals and three assists before fouling out.
KD VS. MELO
There figures to be many occasions Sunday when Anthony and Durant are guarding each other.