After having five straight home games with days off in between, the Thunder's schedule now becomes significantly more cramped.
OKC will play five games this week, with two against Portland. Eight of the Thunder's next nine games will be back-to-back. Six of those eight back-to-back contests are on the road with four games against playoff teams, including Denver twice.
“There's not a lot of practice days left, so we have to take advantage of them,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
The back-to-backs are: vs. Golden State (Tuesday)/at Phoenix (Wednesday); at Portland (Friday)/at LA Clippers (Saturday); at Denver (April 5)/vs. LA Clippers (April 6); at LA Lakers (April 10)/at Sacramento (April 11).
The Thunder clinched a playoff spot Sunday with a 99-90 victory over Portland, which also gave OKC the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Trail Blazers. The Thunder leads the season series 3-0 against the Blazers.
The Thunder also is in good shape for the next tiebreaker, which is division record. OKC is 11-2 against Northwest Division teams this season, while Denver is 8-4 and Portland is 8-6.
The next tiebreaker is conference record, where the Thunder is 26-17, while Denver and Portland are 24-19.
The Thunder hosts Golden State at 7 p.m. Tuesday. When the teams last met in Oakland on Feb. 13, the Warriors posted a 100-94 victory thanks primarily to an astonishing 20-2 advantage in offensive rebounds. OKC also had 20 turnovers that led to 20 Golden State points.
“They just outplayed us,” Brooks said. “They got the loose balls. They got the 50-50 balls. They got the rebounds.”
The Thunder has beaten the Warriors four straight times in OKC.
When the Thunder clinched a playoff spot last season, Brooks mentioned it to his team afterward in the locker room.
“There was no jumping up and down,” Brooks said. “This year (Sunday night), we didn't even mention it. I actually had forgotten about it until I walked out of the media room after the game. It's a great accomplishment, no doubt about it … but it's important to keep playing well.”
Russell Westbrook's celebrity bowling event held last Saturday at AMF Boulevard Lanes in Edmond raised about $75,000 for the Oklahoma City Urban Youth Scholarship Fund. … With his 28-point game against Portland, Westbrook has now led OKC in scoring 20 times this season. … Brooks said one of his primary focuses from now until the playoffs will be to continue “developing trust on the defensive end.”