SALT LAKE CITY – Thunder coach Scott Brooks recently was mapping out where he would take his family during NBA All-Star Weekend later this month.
Just past the stroke of midnight Friday, the city of Orlando, Fla., officially became the Brooks family destination.
With his team's 101-87 victory at Utah, Brooks formally earned the right to coach the Western Conference at the All-Star Game in Orlando on Feb. 26.
The coach with the highest winning percentage through Feb. 15 gets to coach his own conference. The Thunder is now 21-6 (.777) and could finish no worse than 21-8 (.724) by the league's cut-off date.
Brooks' closest competition, Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, can finish no better than 19-8 (.704). San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich (18-9) coached in last year's All-Star Game and was not eligible.
Friday night's victory over the Jazz was far more meaningful to the 46-year-old Brooks, given how careless the Thunder had played in a 106-101 loss at Sacramento the night before.
In the days leading up to clinching the Western coaching honor, Brooks sheepishly would change the subject whenever it was brought up.
Brooks obviously mentioned it to no one because on the court after the Utah victory, director of team operations Marc St. Yves was the only person to congratulate Brooks on his achievement.
ESPN did its postgame interview with Russell Westbrook, who had 28 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists.
In the locker room afterward, Westbrook said he had no idea, but quickly admitted he couldn't be happier for his coach.
"We've got a lot of talent on this team, but at the same time, we've got to be coached," Westbrook said. "He's a guy who keeps us steady and keeps our head above water."
The victory closes out OKC's five-game road trip that began last Saturday at San Antonio. The Thunder went 3-2 during the stretch and is now 12-5 away from Chesapeake Energy Arena, which is four more road wins than any team in the Western Conference.
The Thunder was scheduled to arrive back home around 4 a.m. Saturday and does not play again until it faces Utah (13-12) again on Tuesday, its longest space between games all season.
OKC continues to excel as one of the premier bounce-back teams in the league. The Thunder is 5-1 after a loss this season and 25-7 the last two seasons.
"It means we don't like losing – at all," Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said. "So be greedy and win. That's how I feel, just be greedy. Try to win them all. Last night (at Sacramento) just wasn't us. Tonight we came out we played good ball. We played well."
After committing 23 turnovers at Sacramento that led to 28 points for the Kings, the Thunder unfortunately picked up where it left off with seven first-quarter turnovers against the Jazz that resulted in a 30-27 lead for Utah after the first period.
In the final three quarters, however, OKC committed 10 turnovers and collected 10 steals while outscoring the Jazz 74-57.
"Tonight was a good indication of how we play," Brooks said. "We didn't have a lot of stuff going for us early. We were turning the ball over, but we fought, we stuck together and we competed."
In a rare display of balanced scoring, five Thunder players found double-figures.
In addition to Westbrook, fellow All-Star Kevin Durant had 19 points and took just 10 shots.
Serge Ibaka, coming off a 10-block performance against the Kings, had 16 points on 10 field-goal attempts and added 11 rebounds.
James Harden had 11 points off the bench, which included a clutch 3-pointer with 4:46 remaining that re-established OKC's double-digit lead.
Perkins had his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.