Sit back. Relax. This year's postseason run could take a while. The road to the Western Conference Finals just got far less rocky for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Following a 110-106 overtime loss in the regular season finale to Milwaukee inside Oklahoma City Arena, the Thunder locked up a first-round matchup with the Denver Nuggets. It appears to be the best possible scenario for the Thunder. As the No. 4 seed, Oklahoma City will have home-court advantage and host the first two contests in the seven-game series with the 5th-seeded Nuggets. A potential second-round matchup with San Antonio looms if the Thunder wins the series and the Spurs down Memphis in their 1 vs. 8 first-round matchup. A Thunder win against the Bucks, coupled with a Dallas loss against New Orleans on Wednesday, would have elevated OKC to the third seed and dropped Dallas to fourth. That scenario would have forced the Thunder to play Portland, albeit still with home-court advantage, in the first-round before potentially matching up with the back-to-back champion Lakers in the second round. This could get good. “The key is to advance. It don't matter how you do it,” said Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder's most experienced playoff performer with 68 postseason games for the Boston Celtics. The Thunder won the four-game regular season series against Denver, 3-1. More importantly, Oklahoma City swept the final two games, a home-and-home that came after both teams had retooled with blockbuster trades. Those two wins, just three days apart, sent the Thunder's confidence soaring. “That was the whole mindset going into those last two games against them was to set the standard, prove a point and let them know that it's not going to be easy,” said Daequan Cook. It should help the Thunder that the Nuggets are dinged up. Swingman Arron Afflalo and post players Chris Andersen and Timofey Mozgov have been battling various injuries. Afflalo (hamstring) and starting center Nene (strained left groin) both left Monday's game against Golden State. Nene is questionable for the start of the series. Nuggets starting point guard Ty Lawson, who has torched the Thunder, also had to be helped off the court early in Wednesday's game at Utah because of a sprained left ankle. The stars seem to be aligning. Had the Thunder drawn the Blazers in the opening round, it would have had to face a far more ferocious cast.
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