In case you haven’t been paying attention: After a full month of play, the Oklahoma City Thunder is one game over .500 with a 9-8 record. I’m not sure how many of us saw this coming. We all knew the team would be better and there would be no 1-16 start, but this much better?
A winning road record, wins at Utah, San Antonio and Miami and a dismantling of the mighty Magic at the Ford Center. Back in August, I saw the team going something like 6-11 through the first 17. And I’m loving how wrong I was. But now November is behind us and today is the first day of December, a month that has Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Dallas, Houston, the Lakers, Phoenix and Utah all on the schedule. Another plus-.500 month would be huge, because the road ain’t easy.
Dec. 2 – Philadelphia
Dec. 4 – Boston
Dec. 7 – Golden State
Dec. 11 – at Memphis
Dec. 13 – Cleveland
Dec. 14 – at Denver
Dec. 16 – Dallas
Dec. 18 – Detroit
Dec. 19 – at Houston
Dec. 22 – at L.A. Lakers
Dec. 23 – at Phoenix
Dec. 26 – Charlotte
Dec. 28 – at New Jersey
Dec. 29 – at Washington
Dec. 31 – Utah
Eight home games, seven road. Eight games against winning clubs. A three-game road trip going to the Lakers, Phoenix and Houston. And for good measure, four back-to-backs. If this team showed us one thing in the first month it’s this: It’s capable of beating anyone in the league, but also capable of losing to anyone in the league. No game is safe, no contest is a gimme. So yes, a road game at the currently 0-17 Nets doesn’t feel like a sure thing to me. But at the same time, this week’s home game against Boston appears winnable by all means.
Looking at the run of games, what are reasonable expectations? 8-7? Better? Worse? Let’s look.
The rest of this homestand (three games), has two very winnable games against a 5-13 76ers squad and a 6-10 Warriors team. Obviously Boston is very good, so there really isn’t expectation to win there. But finishing up 2-1 and going 3-2 during this Ford Center run would be nice.
The next five has two should-wins on it with Memphis and a home game against the Pistons. But at Denver, home against the LeBrons and Dallas at home will be tough. However, with the way OKC is playing against top tier teams, I’m saying they take one of those three, most likely the Dallas game. So if all goes according to plan, that’s another 3-2 stretch in a bundle of tough games.
The following three game road trip is darn near impossible. Houston, the Lakers, Phoenix. I’d like to think the Thunder could pull one off against the Rockets because it’s hard to beat any team three straight times and OKC really had the last one against Houston had it not been for 298 offensive rebounds for the Rockets. But I’m not holding my breath here. This has three-game losing streak written all over it. Which really isn’t that big a deal because dang, that’s a really tough rough trip.
The month rounds out with a should-win against Charlotte, a big SHOULD-WIN at New Jersey, a trap game in Washington and what will likely be a tough one at home against Utah. This looks like a 3-1 stretch but for some reason feels like it will go 2-2. But since I’m a shameless homer, I’m going to go with 3-1.
That rounds out to another plus-one month at 8-7. And honestly, if OKC can escape a tough December with a 17-15 overall record, color me outlandishly excited. This team is kind of hard to predict because its going to lose a couple it should, but probably win a few it shouldn’t too. That’s why I think it’ll all kind of balance out. The Thunder might lose at home to Detroit, but could very well win at Denver. Hey, if Minnesota can do it, I’m pretty sure Oklahoma City can to.