Thunder guard James Harden passed all stages of the NBA's concussion evaluation process and was cleared to play in Wednesday night's 106-101 loss against the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
However, with OKC's No. 2 playoff seed secured, coach Scott Brooks decided to delay Harden's return until Game 1 of the Thunder's opening-round playoff series, which will be at home either Saturday or Sunday.
As was the case with Tuesday night's game against Sacramento, Harden was not in the arena on Wednesday either.
WHO IS NO. 7?
Who will face the Thunder as the No. 7 seed remains in doubt heading into the final day of the regular season?
If Denver (37-28) wins at Minnesota on Thursday, the Nuggets clinch the No. 6 seed and would face the No. 3-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.
If Denver loses and Dallas (36-29) wins at Atlanta on Thursday, the Mavericks get the No. 6 seed by virtue of their 3-1 record against the Nuggets during the regular season.
Denver's victory against the Thunder clinched the No. 8 seed for Utah (35-30), which will face top-seeded San Antonio.
The other Western Conference playoff series will match the Los Angeles Clippers against the Memphis Grizzlies, with the home-court advantage yet to be determined.
When Thunder center Kendrick Perkins started flirting with the NBA limit for technical fouls several weeks ago, he vowed to never reach No. 13, which would have drawn a one-game suspension.
“I told you I wouldn't. You didn't believe me?” Perkins said with a smile before Wednesday's regular-season finale against Denver.
Perkins was in the clear when he survived Tuesday night's 118-110 victory over Sacramento without getting slapped with unlucky No. 13. Even had Perkins been hit with a technical on Wednesday, he would not have been suspended for the first playoff game because the slate is wiped cleaned for the postseason.
Perkins said the key to his survival is knowing when to back off.
“It's kind of like a child knowing how much he can push his parents,” said Perkins, who has two young sons. “It's like, ‘Daddy done got mad. I'm gonna chill out right now.'”
Perkins said he has reached the limit for technical fouls three times in his nine-year career, but has yet to receive a one-game suspension.
He paid $36,000 in fines for his 12 technical fouls this season – pending future fines in the postseason, of course.
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