We have a 2012-13 schedule, which means it’s about time I go through it and wildly speculate and guessculate on how it’s all going to go for the Thunder. Two years ago, I had Oklahoma City with 52 wins (they finished with 55) and last season I had the Thunder with 57. And I was wayyyy off. Not my fault though! If not for that whole lockout thing, I totally would’ve been right. (With a 71.2 percent win percentage, the Thunder were on track to win about 58 games in an 82-game season.)
With The Finals still fresh on the brain though, the regular season kind of feels pointless. Once October rolls around, we’ll go back to caring way, way too much about a random Tuesday night loss to the Kings. But 82 games will stand between the Thunder and another shot at glory, and it’s 82 chances to get better prepared than last time.
So how’s it going to go? Let’s take it in pieces.
Nov. 1 – 16 (at San Antonio, Portland, Atlanta, Toronto, at Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, at Detroit, Memphis, at New Orleans)
It’s really not a difficult start to the season for the Thunder. Playing at San Antonio to open will be a challenge, especially because there will be some obvious revenge on the hearts of the Spurs, but the Thunder traditionally kick off seasons well and I think they’re going to be especially eager to start the season knowing how it ended for them. Six of the first 10 are at home, with games against a lot of non-playoff opponents. Oklahoma City will certainly stumble once, if not twice, somewhere in there. Potentially at the Spurs, but maybe most likely in Chicago against the Bulls.
Record through 10: 9-1
Nov. 18 – 30 (Golden State, LA Clippers, at Boston, at Philadelphia, Charlotte, Houston, Utah)
Quietly, a tough little stretch of games here. The Warriors are going to be much improved, the Clippers should be good, the Celtics are always tough and the 76ers are a playoff bunch. The final three games should be definite wins, but the first four could be iffy. But two are at home and I expect the Thunder to be really good at home this season.
Record through 17: 14-3
Dec. 1 – 17 (at New Orleans, at Brooklyn, LA Lakers, Indiana, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio)
Five consecutive home games for the Thunder after a should-win against the Hornets and a probable difficult game against the Nets in Brooklyn. Obviously the Lakers, Pacers and Spurs will present challenges, but again, the Thunder will be very good at home this season. And early on, I don’t see them slipping up too much. I think they want to come out of the gate on fire, to really try and rinse off the stink of The Finals.
Record through 24: 20-4
Dec. 19 – 31 (at Atlanta, at Minnesota, at Miami, Dallas, at Houston, Phoenix)
The Hawks aren’t going to be great, but the Wolves will be tough, especially in Minnesota. The Thunder always seem to play difficult games there. At the Heat on Christmas will obviously be a major undertaking and don’t overlook the Rockets either. They seem to always creep up on the Thunder and take one away, especially at the Toyota Center.
Record through 30: 23-7
Jan. 2 – 16 (Brooklyn, Philadelphia, at Toronto, at Washington, Minnesota, at LA Lakers, at Portland, at Phoenix, Denver)
The losses here: At the Lakers (they’ll be due) and probably at home to either Brooklyn, Philly, Minnesota or Denver. Again, the Thunder will be good at home, but they aren’t going undefeated. They’ll still lose 5-10 games at The Peake. It happens.
Record through 39: 30-9
Jan. 18 – 27 (at Dallas, at Denver, at LA Clippers, at Golden State, at Sacramento, at LA Lakers)
Tough stretch. At Dallas, who will be solid, at the Nuggets who should be pretty good, at the Clippers who are good, at an improved Warriors team, at the Kings where OKC often drops clunkers and at the Lakers again. It’s a difficult six-game road trip, the longest the Thunder have ever had since moving to OKC. Coming out of it at 3-3 would be a major victory.
Record through 45: 33-12
Jan. 31 – Feb. 14 (Memphis, at Cleveland, Dallas, Golden State, Phoenix, at Phoenix, at Utah, Miami)
Five of the next eight at home, with the toughest games being there. On the road OKC plays a decent Cavs squad, a rebuilding Suns team and a mediocre Jazz team. The Grizzlies will be good, the Warriors again (does it seem like the Thunder play the Warriors 40 times a season to anyone else?) Dallas, Utah and Miami. But that Miami game will definitely feature one of the liveliest regular season home crowds. Hard to imagine OKC dropping that one.
Record through 53: 39-14
Feb. 20 – March 17 (at Houston, Minnesota, Chicago, New Orleans, at Denver, at LA Clippers, LA Lakers, at New York, at Charlotte, Boston, at San Antonio, Utah, Orlando, at Dallas)
Fourteen games in 25 days here. There are a few walkovers in there, but mostly, it’s solid to good to great teams. This run could be big in deciding where the Thunder fall in the West this season. Winning 10 of the 14 seems pretty fair, though dropping one in New York or at Dallas could quickly turn it to more like 8-6, and always damage the hopes for 60 wins and a probably top seed.
Record through 67: 49-18
March 19 – April 5 (Denver, at Memphis, at Orlando, Portland, Washington, at Minnesota, at Milwaukee, San Antonio, at Indiana)
The stretch run can often be a problem because your record is already good, you know you’re going to contend and all you can think about is the postseason. Maintaining focus at this point isn’t easy and it’s something the Thunder struggled with last season and it cost them home court advantage. (Something of course they ended up not needing after all.) It honestly wouldn’t shock me if OKC goes 4-5 in this stretch, but I think they’re going to have learned from past transgressions and keep a decent level of concentration.
Record through 76: 55-21
April 7 – 17 (New York, at Utah, at Golden State, at Portland, Sacramento, Milwaukee)
By this point, you’re going to have a pretty good idea where you’re falling. But you always want to be playing solid and crisp basketball heading into the playoffs. The Thunder get some very winnable games and while teams like Utah, Golden State and Milwaukee could be battling to the last minute for playoff spots, OKC should handle business pretty well.
Record through 82: 60-22