Thunder clinch West 6th seed after beating league-no. 1 Bucks
MILWAUKEE — Oklahoma City wanted a win to avoid slipping into a first-round playoff matchup against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
The Milwaukee Bucks, with the NBA’s best record already clinched, just needed to stay healthy.
Everybody got what they wanted Wednesday night.
Russell Westbrook posted his 34th triple-double of the season and the Thunder beat the Bucks’ backups 127-116 to lock up the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Oklahoma City (49-33) played without injured Paul George, but Westbrook, Jerami Grant and Dennis Schroder led a hot-shooting effort. Oklahoma City made a franchise-record 23 3-pointers and handed out a franchise-best 40 assists, converting 48 of 99 shots to win their fifth in a row.
The Thunder will face third-seeded Portland in the first round.
“Good teams always respond,” Schroder said. “We do whatever it takes to go out there and compete and play with each other. We live with the result.
“Now the playoffs come. Now everybody is excited.”
Westbrook had 15 points, 17 assists and 11 rebounds. He moved into a tie with Magic Johnson for second place on the career triple-double list with 138, behind only Oscar Robertson (181).
“It’s a blessing,” Westbrook said.
Schroder was 8-of-15 shooting beyond the arc and had a game-leading 32 points. Grant hit four 3s and added a career-high 28 points.
The Bucks (60-22) rested star Giannis Antetokounmpo and some other key players. They found out moments after the game that they would face eighth-seeded Detroit in the first round of the playoffs.
The Pistons secured a playoff berth with a win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
Khris Middleton was the only usual Bucks starter in the starting five, and he scored 21 points in 17 minutes.
Point guard Tim Frazier scored a career-high 29 points and added 13 assists for Milwaukee and D.J. Wilson had a career-high 18 points while grabbing 17 rebounds. Rookie Bonzie Colson started and scored 21 points.
Middleton said the Bucks are more confident entering the playoffs than they have been in the past. The franchise has not won a playoff series since the 2000-01 season and has not had homecourt advantage in the first round in the last eight first-round series.
“First place in the league, 60 wins, and we have homecourt,” Middleton said. “Forget about the things in the past in some ways. Just keep moving forward.”
The Bucks finished tied for the third-best record in franchise history and their best since the 1980-81 season.
“We’re just trying to soak it all in right now,” said Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe, who was held out Wednesday. “We went through a lot of adversity to get to this point. I’m really proud of this group.”
Thunder: George did not play after aggravating a right shoulder injury in the Thunder’s 112-111 victory over Houston on Tuesday night. George hit the game-winning 3-pointer vs. the Rockets with 1.8 seconds left.
Bucks: Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez sat out the season finale for load management, and point guard Eric Bledsoe did not play. It was the first game Lopez missed after starting all 81 games and it was the 10th game Antetokounmpo missed. … F Nikola Mirotic could be ready for the start of the playoffs this weekend. Mirotic suffered a fractured left thumb against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 19 and did not play in the final 11 regular-season games. … G Tony Snell (left ankle sprain) is unlikely to return at the start of the playoffs. Sterling Brown will keep his spot in the starting lineup.