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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Clemente Almanza

OKC Thunder officially clinch 2023 Play-In tournament spot

After a two-year drought, the Oklahoma City Thunder will play game(s) beyond the regular season.

The Thunder officially clinched a Play-In tournament spot following the Dallas Mavericks’ loss to the Chicago Bulls on Friday. The Thunder will be the 10th seed and play the 9th seed on Wednesday, April 12.

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The winner of the 9 vs. 10 matchup will then go on the road and play the loser of the 7 vs. 8 matchup for the 8th seed on Friday, April 14.

It was an adventurous day for the Mavericks, who started the morning by ruling out Kyrie Irving (foot injury recovery), Christian Wood (rest), Tim Hardaway Jr. (ankle soreness), Maxi Kleber (hamstring injury recovery) and Josh Green (rest).

Luka Doncic (thigh injury recovery) played 13 minutes before checking out at the 11:25 mark of the second quarter with an intentional foul. The plan was for the All-Star to play just the first quarter before sitting out the remainder of the game.

After going 2-7 in their last nine games, the Mavericks had the incentive to lose their final two games in order to keep their 2023 first-round pick. The top-10 protected draft pick was involved in the 2019 Kristaps Porzingis trade with the New York Knicks — who will acquire the pick if it falls No. 11 or below.

With the Play-In spot officially secured, it’ll be interesting to see how Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault now handles Sunday’s season finale against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The result of the game is now meaningless, which provides OKC an opportune time to rest Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and other starters if they choose to do so.

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