After releasing their prime time games to begin the season, for Christmas, and for Martin Luther King Jr Day on Wednesday, the NBA finally blessed us all with the complete 82 game schedule of all the teams in the league. Further solidifying their stance on player rest and increased health, the NBA schedule makers have once again blessed teams with a schedule devoid of the four-games-in-five-nights scenario and the even scarier eight-games-in-12-nights atrocity. In addition, back-to-backs are at historic lows, with teams averaging just 13.3 back-to-backs this season (it was 14.4 last season).
The Thunder once again benefit from being in the middle of the country. Their longest road trip is just four games. In addition, they also have four 3-game road trips. They are involved in 11 back-to-back games. Two of those 11 are road/road back-to-backs. Two are of the home/home variety. Five are of the road/home variety. And two of them are of the home/road variety.
TV Time: The Thunder play 27 nationally televised games on TNT, ESPN, and ABC. If you add in the NBATV games, that number jumps up to 36. Needless to say, the Thunder will once again be one of the most watched teams in the league this season.
The Difficult Part: Based on the Vegas odds for team wins that came out a week ago, the Thunder have the 19th hardest schedule in the league. This is about an inexact science as they come, but it seems like the Thunder can take advantage of this schedule if they come out hungry this season.
Hardest stretch of the season: March 7th – 22nd
- March 7th – @ Portland
- March 8th – @ LA Clippers
- March 11th – @ Utah
- March 13th – Brooklyn
- March 14th – @ Indiana
- March 16th – Golden State
- March 18th – Miami
- March 20th – Toronto
- March 22nd – @ Toronto
Because of this, it’s also hard not to figure out that March is their hardest month of the season.
But don’t dismiss December as a tough month also. It’s their most road-heavy month of the season, with 10 of their 15 games being played outside the friendly confines of the ‘Peake. While the opponents that month may not seem like a murders row, being on the road so much can sometimes tip the scales in the opponent’s favor.
Top 10 Games Of The Season
October 16 – @ Golden State – Russell Westbrook and company have to sit there and watch Kevin Durant get a second ring with his Golden State Warriors teammates. You can bet the camera will be transfixed on Westbrook’s face when Durant receives his ring. This game could be the cauldron starter that powers this team through the season.
November 8 – vs. Houston – Carmelo Anthony returns to the ‘Peake to face off against former teammates Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Should be a fun match-up and it will be interested to see how the fans react to Melo.
November 30 – vs. Atlanta – Native son Trae Young makes his first professional trek to OKC as an opponent. While this match-up shouldn’t be competitive, it will be nice to see Young hoist some deep threes against the Thunder.
December 10 – vs. Utah – The team that knocked the Thunder out of the playoffs last season comes to town to renew their Northwest Division rivalry.
December 25 – @ Houston – A Christmas Day rematch on the other guy’s court. Last season, Oklahoma City and Houston battled on Jesus’ birthday, with the Thunder coming out on top 112-107.
January 2 – @ LA Lakers – The Thunder first meeting with the LeBron James-led Lakers. I have no idea where the Lakers will be at this point in the season, but it’s always fun to face the King, and it should be even funner now that it’s in the City of Angels.
January 19 – @ Philly – Russell Westbrook and Joel Embiid meet in the City of Brotherly Love to continue their trolling rivalry. Whether it’s Westbrook staring at Embiid and the Philly bench while running out the clock in an amazing triple-overtime thriller or Embiid posting a picture of his poster dunk on Westbrook on Instagram while stating the location was “Crime Scene Investigation“, this should be fun regardless. In addition, adding fuel to the fire is the fact the Thunder have beat the Sixers 18 straight time, dating all the way back to their inaugural season in 2008-09.
February 3 – @ Boston – The Thunder travel to Boston to face the Celtics in a pre-Super Bowl matinee game. This one should be fun and may outshine the big football game. In addition, we have the “Abdel Nader returns to Boston” storyline.
March 16 – vs. Golden State – Durant and his crew return to Oklahoma City to resume their budding rivalry with the Thunder. Again, it will be interesting to see how the fans react to Durant, especially with the recent talk of Durant possibly considering returning to OKC sometime in the (near) future. Will they boo him mercilessly (like they should) or will the ease their foot off the boo pedal?
March 20 & 22 – Yes, this is two games, but it’s against one opponent. The Thunder and Raptors engage in a weird home and home, starting in Oklahoma City and ending in Canada. When these two teams meet, the outcome is usually a great game. And now with the addition of Kawhi Leonard, it should be even more interesting.
The schedule (just like any year) has it’s ups and downs. And as usual with this team, they will find ways to blow games they should win easily and win games against top-notch opponents. With all that said, I see the Thunder finishing 54-28 this season, good for 3rd in the West. Now begins the (impatient) waiting game. Is it October 16th yet?