When it’s August, and you’re an NBA fan, schedule release day is like Christmas. It’s something to talk about, something to think about and more importantly, something to write about. So let’s have a look at the important parts of the Thunder’s 2010-11 schedule.
Five must see home games
1. Lakers, Feb. 27. The Thunder only gets the Lakers one time at home this year and it’s a Sunday game at 1:30 on ABC. If there’s going to be a toughest ticket for this season, it’ll be this game. Maybe OKC will bust out the Sea of Blue just for one regular season game this year.
2. Heat, Jan. 30. Like LA, Miami only comes to the Ford Center once this year. It’s the other network television game for the Thunder and of course Wade, LeBron and Bosh will be the draw. Plus, as we’ve covered ’round these parts, it’ll be a bit of the good guys and the bad guys in this game. Nothing would be sweeter than a Thunder win behind a huge game from KD.
3. Bulls, Oct. 27. The Thunder kicks off ESPN’s season with a home game against Chicago. Besides the fact it’s the home opener, it should be a good game against good teams. And any time Russell Westbrook goes head-to-head with Derrick Rose, I’m watching.
4. Denver, Dec. 25. Christmas Day games in the NBA are THE spotlight in the NBA. And not only are the Thunder in that game, but they’re in primetime in a huge game against a division rival.
5. Utah, March 23. Last year, a late-season road loss to the Jazz dropped the Thunder down the Western ranks and basically sealed OKC’s fate for eighth. Now the tables could turn with a home game against Utah late in March with potential seeding on the line. Tony Brothers joke goes here.
January 12-19: In this seven day span, the Thunder plays at Houston then home against Orlando in a back-to-back. Then OKC goes to Staples to play the Lakers and then to Denver to play the Nuggets. Four games in seven days, three on the road, all against contending teams.
The longest road trip for OKC is only three games. That’s amazing. Some teams have six and even seven-game trips, but OKC just has four three-game road trips. And none of the four are all that ridiculous really.
The Thunder has just 15 back-to-backs which is on the very low-end of the league. Last season OKC had 18, which was somewhere in the middle.
December: Oklahoma City has a large slate of games in December (16 games) but for the most part, it’s not overly difficult. The majority of the games are against teams that missed the playoffs last year (nine) and the Thunder has two four-game homestands. Plus there are only two back-to-backs in the whole month. The Thunder should be able to put together a quality record of something like 11-5 or 12-4 in this month heading into a tough January.
January: As mentioned, it has the toughest stretch but also has eight road games to five home. The toughest road trip is here (Mavs, Spurs, Grizzlies) and also the killer week against four contenders. On first look, there are really only four should-win games, with a bunch of toss-ups. November is pretty dang tough, but I’m going with January only because of the tougher road trip and killer week.
Can you see me now?
The Thunder has 15 national TV appearances set right now and that number could go up with the flex schedule. There are four TNT games, nine ESPN and two network television games on ABC. Plus, OKC has the spotlight on opening week, Christmas Day and MLK Day. If the Thunder were under-the-radar last season, they just showed up on it like a giant asteroid this year.
First 10 games
It’s a mid-level start to the season for the Thunder with a few toughies and a few gimmes. Luckily, 6 of the 10 are at home. If I were to take a stab at the record through 10, I’d say 7-3 or if things go well, 8-2. It’s exactly the kind of start you’d hope to get out of the gates, especially because November gets a lot tougher on the back end.
Weekend home games
The Thunder plays nine games on Sunday and eight on Friday, but only three on Saturday. Obviously OKC prefers not to go head-to-head in the fall with OU and OSU football, but three Saturday games is kind of strange. The Thunder prefers the family friendly Sunday at 6 p.m. game so that one takes the Saturday spot. But overall, 20 weekend games of the 41 is pretty nice.
This is a very favorable schedule. The Thunder doesn’t have any long trips, a low amount of back-to-backs and only plays against the Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks three times instead of four. There’s no overly ridiculous month and it’s fairly balanced. However, April is a tough close and seeing as OKC faded a bit last season, the final month could be difficult on them as well. Though overall, I’d say if I’m Thunder fan, which I am, I’m happy.