Thunder coach Scott Brooks insists all 82 games count the same, that Sunday’s game with Portland was no bigger than Tuesday’s game at Philadelphia.
Let’s see if Brooks agrees a couple of weeks from now. Let’s see if Portland’s 92-87 win over Oklahoma City on Sunday night in the Ford Center ends up being the difference between whether the Thunder plays the Lakers or a different team in the first round of the NBA playoffs. If Oklahoma City had won Sunday night, the Thunder would have owned a two-game lead, been up three games on Portland in the loss column and would have clinched the season tiebreaker. Instead, the Trail Blazers leave town in a three-way tie with the Thunder and San Antonio for the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 spots in the Western Conference, although OKC and the Spurs technically lead Portland by percentage points. If it becomes a factor, the Portland-OKC tiebreaker will now be decided by a winner-take-all game April 12 in the Rose Garden the next to last game of the regular season. San Antonio already owns the tiebreaker over the Thunder. "This would have been a huge win,” said Thunder forward Nick Collison. OKC led only once in the second half, 51-50, on the opening basket of the third quarter. The Thunder stayed within striking range — even drew even at 84-84 with 3:55 on Serge Ibaka’s alley-oop dunk — but could never grab the lead. "We understand it’s a tough loss for a playoff spot,” said center Nenad Krstic. "When you lose a game like this it’s tough, but you really can’t think about it. We have 10 more games left and a pretty tough schedule.” Forward Jeff Green said he was encouraged the Thunder had a chance to win despite playing "terrible.” "Our defense wasn’t there, especially on rebounds,” Green said. "We gave up too many second-chance opportunities, too many second-chance points.