Championship contenders don't celebrate playoff berths.
But to see how nonchalant Oklahoma City Thunder players and coaches were after the team officially clinched with a win over Chicago on Sunday still came as a bit of a surprise. The subdued reaction represented another example of how fast the franchise has emerged as one of the NBA's elite.
Just two years ago, the Thunder was the eighth seed, happy to simply be a part of the playoff party after a 23-win season the year before. Fans celebrated. Confetti rained down from the rafters. It was all new and a big deal.
This year, Thunder coach Scott Brooks didn't even know his team had clinched until Monday morning despite Sunday's noon tip-off concluding before 3 p.m.
“It's not out of arrogance,” Brooks explained. “We just do our job … and we all want to do it and do it every day. And we're excited about doing it. But we don't put the standings on the board and say, ‘We got a one-game lead or a two-game lead or whatever.' We always just focus on each game.
“It's great to clinch a playoff spot, but we want to keep getting better. We've got three weeks to keep improving.”
DAEQUAN COOK EAGER TO HELP
Guard Daequan Cook on Monday was cleared to play after spraining his right knee late in a game at Utah on March 20. Although he did not get any minutes against Memphis, Cook said he's ready to return to the lineup.
“I feel good,” Cook said. “It's been a while, but I feel real good and I'm ready to get back to playing.”
Cook said he's not concerned about having to regain his rhythm because he had been rigorously working out with a knee brace supporting his knee. It's unclear when, how or even if Brooks will integrate Cook back into the rotation, but Cook expressed his eagerness to help.
“I just want to get out there whenever coach calls my name and do whatever I have to do to help the team win,” Cook said. “That's what it's all about right now.”
SEARCHING FOR MINUTES FOR SEFOLOSHA
In each of the previous two games, Brooks has reinserted Thabo Sefolosha at the start of the second quarter to play with the second unit. It's something Brooks has rarely, if ever, done this season.