The Thunder clinched the Northwest Division with Wednesday night's 112-108 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers inside Oklahoma City Arena, so now OKC can concentrate on the team directly in front in the standings rather than the team directly behind.
The Thunder (52-26) trails Dallas (53-25) by only one game for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
As it stands now, OKC is the No. 4 seed and likely would play No. 5-seeded Denver in the opening round.
The Nuggets (48-30), who beat the Mavericks 104-96 in Dallas on Wednesday, play at the Thunder on Friday night.
Clippers center Chris Kaman dominated the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins throughout the first half with an array of blocked shots and altered shots underneath. Perkins missed eight shots in the first half, probably from a combined 10 feet. Perkins learned his lesson and had only one field-goal attempt in the second half.
On the positive side, Perkins set a Thunder record with 10 offensive rebounds and finished with 17 total.
Oklahoma City police officer Chad Peery, who was paralyzed after being asked to break up a fight in a local bar while watching a Thunder game, was in attendance and received a standing ovation during a timeout late in the first half.
Interesting fan treatment of former Oklahoma standout Blake Griffin, who was cheered loudly during pre-game introductions, but soundly booed when he dunked – which was frequently.
As Griffin's point total quickly rose, the boos also became groans. Griffin finished with 35 points and 11 rebounds.
New OU basketball coach Lon Kruger was in attendance and visited briefly with Griffin about an hour before tipoff. Griffin previously spoke of his disappointment at the firing of Jeff Capel.
“I wish him the best,” Griffin said of Capel. “Obviously, I think highly of him, and he'll be fine. On the other hand, everything that was said, for me, it wasn't a shot at the university. It was (support) for Coach Capel. I have a lot of loyalty to him. I talked with Coach Kruger several times. He's going to be great for Oklahoma. I'm excited to have a guy that's had that much success and that much experience in his career.”
Kruger first spoke with Griffin on Tuesday. “It makes me feel great that he reached out,” Griffin said. “I'm behind him 100 percent. I don't have any bad feelings or anything like that toward him.”
FARE THEE WELL
The Clippers went 2-2 against the Thunder this season. Asked why his team fared so well, Griffin said; “You look across the board for them, they like to get out and run (and) we like to get out and run. They're pretty athletic, and I think we're pretty athletic as well. I think we just kind of match up together well. I think everybody steps up and accepts the challenge to guard guys like Kevin Durant (who had 29 points Wednesday). You're not going to stop him, but you try to slow him down.”