Here’s to breaks. The Thunder don’t play again until Thursday of this week. Now is the time to hot and cold tub it, rehabilitate whatever tiny injuries might be pestering you, and take videos with your dogs on Instagram. This is the calm before the storm that is the playoffs.
And don’t get it twisted. Those are coming soon. It’s March 31st today. The regular season ends for the Thunder on April 16th. So go ahead and wash your shirts with sayings on them that don’t quite make sense — Team Is Community — and ready yourselves for the push. It is very close to party time.
Let’s take a look at The Forecast.
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Team: San Antonio Spurs (57-16, first in Southwest Division)
Date: Thursday, April 3, 2014 (Home)
Details: The Win Machine marches on and destroys all in its path. Gregg Popovich pulls strings and controls the world he lives in with all the joyful precision of those Austrian kids playing with marionettes in The Sound of Music. They’re tops in the Southwest and alone at the top of the West, three games up on the Thunder. At the time of this writing, they’ve won seventeen in a row. They’re an actual Terminator at this point, essentially. They stroll into town, clad in black, and start ending futures. The Pop magic has now turned Marco Belinelli into someone legitimately terrifying for defenses and Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan are about as well rested as bears post-hibernation. They are a problem.
This one’s on TNT so flip over there to watch sweet relief wash over the faces of Kenny and Charles as they get to discuss a basketball league they actually know about.
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Team: Houston Rockets (49-23, second in Southwest Division)
Date: Friday, April 4, 2014 (Away)
Details: The last time these two teams met the Thunder were coming off giving up 40 plus to Gerald Green and Jodi Meeks in back to back losses. It seemed as if the apocalypse might me coming next, snow coating the walls of hell and pigs taking to the skies, but the Thunder proceeded to pound on Houston in the next game, Durant going for 42 of his own. While the Thunder defense has tightened up a bit in recent weeks, it’s still hard to forget that slashing guards have the ability to treat Thabo-less us like we called their mom a really bad name. The smiling sun on this game, though, is how well we dealt with them last time we played them. Durant went for 42, 5, and 4 and Funaki neutralized Howard. Must’ve had some Skittles on him.
It’s on ESPN so go ahead and tune in early for plenty of piping hot Knicks coverage.
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Team: Phoenix Suns (44-30, third in Pacific Division)
Date: Sunday, April 6, 2014 (Away)
Details: Phoenix is battling to stay in the playoff picture right now. They’re currently seventh in the standings but only a half game separates them from being out entirely. If they were in the East, they’d be a three seed. This is nothing new to say, but let’s say it again so it sinks into all of our brains how historically awful the Eastern conference is this year: If the Phoenix Suns — a team that could conceivably not make the playoffs in the West — were in the East, they’d be a three seed. The resurrection is happening before our eyes and Jeff Hornacek is channeling some kind of bizarro Jerry Sloan. The only thing that could stand in his way now is Jerry Stackhouse giving him a three piece. Goran Dragic is finally playing basketball good enough to live up to a name as awesome as Goran Dragic. Miles Plumlee is apparently a force. And Eric Bledsoe, The Nuclear Muscle Hampster, is back healthy, trying to get to form before the playoffs begin. The Suns are scary if only because they play loose and have nothing to lose.
NBATV carries this one so get used to comparing different deacons at your church to Matt Winer.
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Acceptable Outcome: 2-1
The reasonable man in me wants to say 1-2, what with the Thunder going into a couple hostile, desperate-for-a-win environments, but if the one seed matters to the Thunder at all — and, in fairness, it might not — then 2-1 is about all we could accept.
The truth is, there’s a world where the Thunder lose all three of these games. The other teams are that good and the Thunder can lay an egg sometimes. This is one of those weird, important stretches where they could go any which way. They could drop two or three here and fade farther back toward the Clippers, or they could win all three and make up ground on the United Nations. It’s a big week. The Spurs take their seventeen in a row up against (in order) the Pacers, the Warriors, the Thunder, and the Grizzlies. Maybe they bleed. Terminators can die. I’ve seen it happen. Edward Furlong was real upset about it.