For one night, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be fans of their Western Conference rivals, the San Antonio Spurs.
The only chance the Thunder have of continuing their campaign is if San Antonio defeat the New Orleans Pelicans tonight, with the final playoff spot in the West set to be determined on the last night of the regular season.
While Oklahoma City and New Orleans have identical records at 44-37, the Pelicans hold the tiebreaker thanks to a 3-1 head-to-head series edge.
The Thunder still have to win their match-up against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, but New Orleans control their own fate and can seal their first trip to the playoffs since 2010-11 when they were named the Hornets.
It will be a tall task against the red-hot Spurs, who have won 11 straight and turned into legitimate title contenders in the second half of the season.
“Honestly, we thought we’d be in the playoffs. We had injuries and close games, but we wouldn’t want it no other way,” Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis said.
“We’ve fought through adversity since I’ve been here. It’s just another test for us, and I think we’ll be able to handle it.”
New Orleans coach Monty Williams added: “We get to play the champs on our home floor. Our crowd should be crazy and our guys should have a good time with it.”
The Pelicans have won two of the three meetings between the teams, holding the potent San Antonio attack to under triple digits in each contest.
All three games, however, came before the New Year and the Spurs have been a different team since.
Oklahoma City are in the awkward position of not only having their fortunes rest with another team, but that team having been a roadblock to the Thunder’s title hopes as recently as last year.
In the 2014 playoffs, San Antonio knocked off Oklahoma City in six games in the Conference Finals before hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Asked if he’ll be pulling for that same team on Wednesday, Thunder star Russell Westbrook, defiant as usual, said: “I ain’t got to root for nobody. I ain’t no Spurs fan. What type of question is that?”
The point guard’s coach and teammates were more modest and admitted they’ll need a hand to extend their season.
“We’re going to need some help from San Antonio,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said.
“I’ve always been a Pop (Gregg Popovich) fan, and [on Wednesday] I’ll be even more of a Pop fan.”
Newcomer Dion Waiters, who was traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers in January, said: “Russ said he’s not going to be a fan. I’m going to be a fan of the Spurs on Wednesday.
"I’ve never been to the playoffs. I’m hoping that they go in there and they play and they get a win, and we go and handle our business.”
New Orleans and OKC will tip-off at the same time (Thursday, 04:00 UAE).
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