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We have a season so therefore, we must have a schedule. So what that it’s just 66 games? Better than nothing, right? (Correct answer is “right.”)
If you want to go over the entire thing, it’s right here, but I’m going to hit on the big parts of it.
FIVE MUST-SEE HOME GAMES
1. Magic, Dec.25. It’s the home opener, which means you’re going to want to be at Peake Arena that night, but it’s also Christmas against Dwight Howard (maybe) on national television. That’s the type of game you don’t miss. Also: The last time you saw your Thunder at home they were blowing a 15-point fourth quarter lead in the Western Conference Finals. So it’ll be nice to welcome them back by forgetting that.
2. Mavericks, Dec. 29. The first opportunity for payback and redemption comes right off the jump. You can be sure the Arena Formerly Known As The Ford Center will be amped about this one. The last time the Mavericks were in Oklahoma City, they broke the Thunder’s heart with that ridiculous 15-point comeback. No way KD, Russ and the Thunderdome are planning on letting them walk out with anything easy this time.
3. Grizzlies, Feb 3. Not that the Grizzlies and Thunder have some kind of budding rivalry, but any time you battle a team over seven games in the postseason, it’s a big deal when they come back to town.
4. Lakers, Feb 23. The Lakers visit Nov. 23 for the first time, but go almost four months between trips as they return with just a week left in the season. That’s a bummer, but there’s a chance this game could have major Western playoff seeding implications. The Lakers always bring out the best in Thunder fans, but if the stakes are raised, it’ll just be that much better.
5. Heat, March 25. I shouldn’t have to give you a reason why this one is a must-watch home game. LeBron v. Durant. Wade v. Westbrook. The good guys v. the bad guys. All the storylines are still there and the Heat remain the most followed, most polarizing team in sports. Hosting them is always a good time, if only just so you can boo LeBron.
March 25 – April 2: There may be other sequences in the schedule where the Thunder have a difficult home-road turnaround or a tough five-in-six-nights stretch, but in terms of just strength of schedule difficulty, the Thunder’s six days to end March look really tough. OKC plays Miami at home then travels to the West Coast to take on Portland and the Lakers before returning home to play the Bulls and Grizzlies. That’s four contenders and a solid playoff team in seven days. Coming out of that 2-3 seems like it would be a victory.
SEE YA NEXT YEAR
The six Eastern Conference teams that won’t come to OKC: Atlanta, Indiana, Milwaukee, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington.
The longest road trip for the Thunder is just five games, but OKC has to do that twice. The Thunder tend to always escape long trips mainly because of their location, but long road trips is what wears teams out. The first trip has OKC going to the Spurs, Blazers, Warriors, Kings and Jazz with the second being against the Wolves, Clippers, Suns, Kings and Lakers.
Seventeen back-to-backs for the Thunder this season which wouldn’t be horrible in a normal world, but now, is a ton. Last season that number was 15 total, and that was over 82 games. The Thunder’s lone back-to-back-to-back comes Jan. 6-8 with a home game against Houston, a road game against Houston and a home game against San Antonio. Not too bad in terms of travel, and two of the three at home.
OKC’s February isn’t easy at all. It starts with a game at Dallas and then one at home against Memphis. And included in it is a five-game road trip, six back-to-backs, one stretch of five games in six days and seven in 10 days. Not to mention the opponents: Boston, San Antonio, Portland, the Lakers, Philly and Golden State twice, who OKC always struggles with.
The Thunder’s schedule never really has an easy stretch. March contains the most prospective lottery teams in it, but it finishes with the beginning of the worst week of the season. Because the Eastern teams the Thunder are missing out on aren’t all that great, it means OKC misses out on probably six wins.
LOOK AT ME NOW
Last season the Thunder appeared 17 times on national TV. That number stays the same despite there being 16 fewer games. The Thunder are one of the top five most televised teams now and it’s obvious that the league considers OKC one of its marquee television teams.