After the schedule comes out, most of the discussion around it centers around back-to-backs. They can take a seemingly easy month and turn it into an incredibly difficult one. Having to play Wednesday night at home and then turn around and fly to Orlando for a game less than 24 hours is not easy.
But simply looking at back-to-backs is just the beginning. It’s only scratching the surface. The real meat and potatoes to the difficulty of a schedule comes down to not only the back-to-back, but what the team you’re playing on that second night comes in looking like. What if you’re playing your fourth game in five days but your opponent has had three days off? Those are the type of minor quirks in a schedule that can really make a difference come April.
In the Thunder’s case, they had one of the lowest totals of back-to-backs of just 17. Only the Lakers and Suns have fewer. The Thunder also are tied for the fewest number of four in five days games with only one. That’s huge. And the Thunder have 11 three in four days with the final being a back-to-back, which puts them a in the middle of the league.
SITUATION THUNDER OPPONENTS
4 in 5 1 3
3 in 4 (B2B finish) 11 11
3 in 4 11 11
1 day rest 37 30
2 days rest 12 11
3+ days rest 5 6
Games against unrestested opponent N/A 10
Total B2B 17 N/A
As for the flip side. Oklahoma City has three circumstances where its playing a team playing in its fourth in five days, which is in the top half of the league. And the biggie: The Thunder has 10 games against a team that is coming in having played the night before. Only one team has more and that’s Phoenix (15). The Thunder only had six games against a team playing on three days rest, 11 against a team on two days and 30 against teams on one day. All three of those are in the upper half of the NBA.
If there’s any unfavorable thing about it for OKC, it’s that the Thunder are second to only the Lakers and Suns in playing on one day rest and have one of the fewest three day off stretches in the league. And overall, OKC has some of the fewest rest days period.
But really, any way you break down the Thunder’s schedule, I don’t think it could have been a better draw. A large number of national TV games, a low number of back-to-backs, a high number against unrested teams, a favorable start that’s home heavy and a workable close to it.