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Thunder-Nuggets game might be playoff preview

BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, Published: April 7, 2011

The Oklahoma City Thunder has secured home court and no worse than the No. 4 seed for the opening round of the NBA Playoffs, but despite these advantages the Thunder statistically faces a 50-50 chance of surviving.

Since the league began its current playoff format with eight qualifiers from each conference, the opening-round series between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds stands 27-27 overall.

The No. 4 seed is 25-26 when it has homecourt advantage against the No. 5 seed. Beginning four years ago, division winners were guaranteed no lower than a No. 4 seed. On the three occasions the No. 5 seed has owned first-round homecourt advantage thanks to a better record, the No. 4 seed leads 2-1 in those series.

Friday's 7 p.m. contest between the Thunder and Denver inside Oklahoma City Arena currently stands as an opening-round preview between this season's No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the Western Conference.

Only the No. 1 seed has been secured, by San Antonio (60-19).

OKC could still climb as high as No. 2.

With four games remaining in its season, the Thunder (52-26) stands one game behind Dallas (53-25) for the No. 3 seed and three games behind the two-time defending world champion Los Angeles Lakers (55-23) for the No. 2 seed.

The Nuggets (48-30) own a three-game lead for the No. 5 seed, while New Orleans (45-33), Portland (45-33) and Memphis (44-34) are separated by only one game for the No. 6-8 seeds.

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(Since current format began in 1984)

Opening round: 166-50 (.769)

No. 1 vs. No. 8: 51-3 (.944)

No. 2 vs. No. 7: 49-5 (.907)

No. 3 vs. No. 6: 39-15 (.722)

No. 4 vs. No. 5: 27-27 (.500)

Conference semifinals: 85-23 (.787)

Conference finals: 37-17 (.685)

Finals: 21-6 (.778)

(Since 2000)

Opening round: 72-17 (.818)

Conference semifinals: 36-8 (.818)

Conference finals: 11-11 (.500)

Finals: 9-2 (.818)

Note: First round series were best-of-five from 1984-2002 before changing to best-of-seven; NBA Finals are 2-3-2 format, all other rounds are 2-2-1 or 2-2-1-1-1.

Nuggets at Thunder

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Oklahoma City Arena

TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722)

Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM


- Denver is 16-5 since the Feb. 22 trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks.

- OKC leads the season series 2-1 and posted its first franchise victory in Denver on Tuesday.

- Thunder coach Scott Brooks served as an assistant under Nuggets coach George Karl.

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