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).
Can Harden make the All-Star team?
Reserves for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game will be announced Thursday night, and, by all accounts, Thunder guard James Harden is on the bubble of earning his first All-Star selection.
In 25 games, Harden has averaged 16.8 points, four rebounds, 3.5 assists and 0.9 steals. Harden also has connected on 47 percent of his shots from the field and 36.2 percent from the 3-point line.
Only three Western Conference shooting guards are averaging more points than Harden. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has been voted in by fans as a starter. Golden State's Monta Ellis and Houston's Kevin Martin are the only other two.
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook appears to be a lock to be named to his second straight All-Star game, which would eliminate one spot. Among all West guards, Harden trails only Bryant, Ellis, Westbrook, Martin, San Antonio's Tony Parker and Sacramento's Tyreke Evans in scoring production. Phoenix point guard Steve Nash averages fewer points than Harden at 15.1 per game. But his NBA-leading 10 assists per game have him in the mix as well.
But while other guards have constructed better statistical seasons, it's the team success that the Thunder has enjoyed that could benefit Harden.
Coaches from each conference select the seven reserves that will round out the 12-man teams from their respective conferences. Coaches are prohibited from voting for their own player. Portland coach Nate McMillan on Monday night said he rewarded guys from winning teams when filling out his ballot, and Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he operated similarly, adding that Ellis might fall short largely because of the Warriors' record.
“He is a talented guy coming off that bench,” Jackson said of Harden. “He's very good. Harden is a different animal on the offensive end.
“I think it's going to be a great group whoever gets selected. There's a lot of guys that's certainly worthy of making the All-Star team.”
SEFOLOSHA SET TO RETURN ‘ANY DAY'
Guard Thabo Sefolosha, who has missed the past six games with a foot injury, said he could rejoin the lineup “any day.”