Tricky clinch

The math is settled: the Thunder will be in the playoffs, the third team in the West to clinch a postseason berth. God only knows when the 76ers were mathematically eliminated, but it must have been pretty early in the season, inasmuch as they lost their first 18 games and they’ve now lost 60 games out of 69. Still, Philly played it close in the first half, aided and abetted by a ridiculous number of Oklahoma City turnovers, and murmurs of “trap game” were heard in the Thunder fandom; there is, after all, a game against a really good team, the Indiana Pacers, tomorrow night. Up six at the half, the Thunder waxed Philly 32-21 in the third quarter, and there would be no more surprises: the final was 111-97, which fell into the category of “Hey, it’s a W, what do you want?”

Well, fewer turnovers would be nice: the Thunder coughed up the rock 20 times, the Sixers only eight. And Philly was far defter at forcing the turnovers, with 11 steals. What’s more, the Sixers drew lots of fouls: they earned 27 free throws, the Thunder only 18. But being the Sixers, they missed ten of those freebies, and fell short of 40-percent shooting from the floor. (Rebound count was absurd: OKC 63, Philly 36.) Still, reserve shooting guard Nik Stauskas outscored everyone on the floor except Kevin Durant, bagging a season-high 23 points; Durant had a fairly typical 26, and Russell Westbrook had yet another triple-double, 20-15-10.

Something we hadn’t seen from Billy Donovan this year: a player given a rest. Serge Ibaka did not play, presumably so he can be fresh for the Pacers; Nick Collison started in his place. We can call this, I suppose, Not a Scott Brooks Move.

After Indiana tomorrow, the Thunder come home to meet two, maybe three, playoff teams in a row: the Rockets, the Jazz (just barely behind the Mavs), and the Spurs. But after that, there are only two home games left, one against each of the Los Angeles clubs. File away under Scheduling Quirks, and go get your playoff-game tickets.


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