Currently, the Oklahoma City Thunder (51-18) are two games out of first place in the Western Conference behind the San Antonio Spurs (56-16). With 13 games to go, Oklahoma City is going to have to have to make a push here late to grab the one seed and gain home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Out of 13 games, the Thunder will face off with only 5 current playoff teams; the Clippers, Suns, Pacers, Mavericks, and the Spurs. Luckily, on April 3rd, the Spurs come to down in a big match-up that may differentiate who gets the one-seed.
Who they play isn’t the issue, though. It’s how they play. And as of late, the Thunder have been inconsistent, winning just six of their last 10 games. It is vital that Oklahoma City goes into the playoffs playing good basketball. Stealing the one seed should be a goal of this Thunder team, and here are three keys to that happening:
- Reggie Jackson. After Russell Westbrook’s MRI came out negative with no fracture or tear, he will still be on rest here and there for the remainder of the year. What does this mean? More opportunities for Jackson. And no matter how many minutes he plays come playoff time, the Thunder will need him playing well. In Oklahoma City’s Double-OT win, Jackson posted his first career double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Now, obviously it’s not realistic that Jackson produces those types of numbers night in and night out. But, Scott Brooks could really use high production from Jackson come April and June.
- Rebounding. One of the main concerns as of late for this Thunder team has been their rebounding. Against the Raptors, Oklahoma City gave up 14 offensive rebounds, which needs to be cleaned up. Kendrick Perkins returning for the playoffs will sure help, but for now, Adams, Ibaka, Collison and Thabeet will need to control the glass every night.
- Defensive. We all know that Kevin Durant will give the Thunder at least 30 a night, and OKC will score at least 95 points a night. But, how about the defensive end? In their last 10 games, the Thunder have given up 104 points a game, which is pretty poor.
13 games to go, against 5 playoff teams. Can the Thunder make a run for the one seed?