Bucks-Thunder Preview

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.