Bucks-Thunder Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 16, 2013
The Oklahoma City Thunder have locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks are headed to the East playoffs, but they couldn't be in a much worse spot. Oklahoma City will try to close the regular season with a fifth consecutive victory Wednesday night, while the visiting Bucks try to end their longest skid of 2012-13 before a brutal postseason matchup. Needing a victory over Sacramento on Monday to claim the top spot in the West, the Thunder (60-21) won 104-95 behind 50 combined points from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The franchise has reached the 60-win plateau for the first time since the Seattle SuperSonics went 61-21 in 1997-98. "We've never done it here before, so it's new to us,'' Durant said after scoring 29 points. "But it feels good. It shows our progression as a franchise each and every year.'' While it's uncertain who the defending West champs will open the playoffs against - either the Los Angeles Lakers or Utah - what is all but certain is that Durant will not win a fourth consecutive scoring title. He would need 70 points Wednesday - and that's just if Carmelo Anthony, the NBA leader with 28.7 ppg, sits out New York's season finale against Atlanta. Durant, though, doesn't need to do anything to become the sixth player in league history to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the foul line, joining Reggie Miller, Mark Price, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Larry Bird. Durant has hit 51.0 percent of his field-goal attempts, 41.6 percent from beyond the arc and 90.5 percent from the line. "To be able to score as many points as he has scored and shoot that well is pretty impressive," coach Scott Brooks said. "It doesn't happen that often." Neither does a Bucks playoff appearance. Milwaukee will be making its second trip to the postseason in seven years, but it's drawn league-best Miami in the first round. The Bucks aren't exactly storming into the matchup with the Heat, dropping five in a row and 15 of 20. Monta Ellis scored half of his 38 points in the fourth quarter against Denver on Monday, but Milwaukee lost 112-111. "It'd be nice for us to taste a victory,'' coach Jim Boylan said. The Bucks nearly did with the Thunder in town March 30, but Oklahoma City went on a 19-2 fourth-quarter run en route to a 109-99 win. Ellis and Brandon Jennings combined for 17 points and shot 6 of 30 in that game, negating a big effort from Ersan Ilysova, who had 29 points and 14 rebounds. Larry Sanders, second in the league behind the Thunder's Serge Ibaka with 2.8 blocks per game, will likely miss a fourth straight contest with a sore lower back. Ibaka, who recorded a season-best eight blocks in Milwaukee last month and is averaging 3.1, will lead the NBA for a second consecutive season. The Bucks and Thunder last played in Oklahoma City to close out 2010-11, a Milwaukee 110-106 overtime victory April 13, 2011.
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