With the Los Angeles Clippers laying an egg at Cleveland last night, Thunder coach Scott Brooks moved one step closer to being named the coach of the Western Conference All-Star team, our man John Rohde notes.
With the Los Angeles Clippers losing 99-92 at Cleveland on Wednesday night, Scott Brooks’ magic number to become the Western Conference All-Star coach is down to one.
One more victory by the Thunder between Thursday and next Wednesday clinches the best record by the league’s Feb. 15 cutoff date. The coach with the best winning percentage in each conference at that time gets to coach his conference at the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando on Feb. 26.
The best record Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro can have is 19-8. (.704). The best record San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich can have is 21-9 (.700). With one more victory, the worst record Brooks can have is 21-8 (.724).
Nothing is guaranteed, of course. But this is as close to a sure thing as you’ll find. The Thunder has three cracks at notching one more win before Feb.1 5, starting with tonight’s game at Sacramento. And Oklahoma City has had only one three-game losing streak in its past 107 games. Additionally, the Kings, at 9-16, are the second worst team in the Western Conference. Sacramento has given up 100.6 points per game, the third most in the league, and has been outscored by an average margin of 8.8 points, the NBA’s fourth worst discrepancy.
The next two games will be a home-and-home set against Utah, with the Thunder playing in Salt Lake City on Friday before hosting the Jazz on Tuesday. In that second meeting, the Thunder will be on three days rest, while the Utah will be playing its third game in three nights, all of them on the road.
While it’d be premature to pop the champagne and congratulate Brooks at this point, the mere fact that he’s on the brink of earning this honor is a testament to the job he’s done in OKC. He took a team that was 1-12 and headed nowhere fast and helped to turn it into a perennial 50-win club. He’s helped develop two All-Stars (and maybe three if James Harden joins Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Orlando as a reserve) . He’s won a Coach of the Year award. And he’s led his team to the Western Conference Finals.
Now, Oklahoma City has the best record in the league at 20-5. With that, central Florida is officially under a Thunderstorm watch for All-Star Weekend.