The Thunder’s 2014-15 schedule is here and it features 41 home games along with 41 road games. First time in team history, I think. The season starts with a difficult back-to-back in Portland and against the Clippers, then opens at home on Nov. 1 against the Nuggets.
The season is still a while away, but there’s just something about having dates and times to put with games that makes it feel a lot closer. Like we already knew that the Thunder would play the Cavs at some point during the season. But now knowing it’s Dec. 11 makes the matchup real.
Here’s the whole schedule, but here are the highlights:
FIVE MUST-SEE HOME GAMES
1. Rockets, Nov. 16. Patrick Beverley versus Russell Westbrook. James Harden versus the Thunder. Dwight Howard versus Kendrick Adams. There’s always a level of intensity between these two teams, and it starts with the point guard matchup.
2. Cavaliers, Dec. 11. LeBron. KD. Watch.
3. Clippers, Feb. 8. There’s a little something between the Thunder and Clippers, and this is the first meeting in OKC since the infamous Game 5 that left Doc Rivers pounding the table in frustration.
4. Bulls, March 15. We’ve waited for far too long to watch Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook assault each other for 48 minutes. The two most explosive, athletic point guards in the league going toe-to-toe is obviously must-see.
5. Spurs, April 7. Get this: This is the Spurs’ first and only visit to OKC this season. Maybe the weirdest part of OKC’s schedule is that they play the Spurs only three times, with two of them being in San Antonio. The Thunder play them a few days before on March 25, so within a two-week span, the tiebreaker will be decided between these two.
FIVE FUN ROAD GAMES
1. Blazers, Oct 29. First game of the season on the road against a good team. That’s a pretty good one.
2. Spurs, Dec. 25. Another Christmas game for the Thunder, this one sending them to San Antonio for their first post-WCF game against the Spurs.
3. Wizards, Jan. 21. Kevin Durant’s lone visit to D.C. where Wizards fans can sernade him and try and convince him to not even get back on the Thunder’s team plane and instead just remain there, waiting for 2016.
4. Cavaliers, Jan. 25. LeBron. KD. Round 2. Watch.
5. Mavericks, March. 16. The Mavs are a lot better, I think, this season. The Thunder always seem to play tight, difficult games against them, especially in Dallas. Late in the season when wins could be at a premium, this could be a pretty big game.
TOUGHEST 10-DAY STRETCH
Jan. 21– Jan 31: In some ways, I feel like it’s the first 10 days of the season. Starting with a road back-to-back against the Blazers and Clippers, with at the Nets, at the Raptors and home to the Grizzlies. There’s a real chance if the Thunder come out of the blocks slow, they could be 2-5 after the first 10 days. But I think the toughest stretch comes in January, starting with a trip to D.C. for Wizards fans to woo KD on Jan. 21. From the 21st to the 31st, the Thunder play six games, with four on the road against the Wizards, Hawks, Cavs, Knicks and Grizzlies. The two home games aren’t difficult (Magic and Wolves), but it’s six games in 10 days, four on the road and five against likely playoff teams.
The longest road trip for the Thunder is fives games from Jan. 18-25. They play at the Magic, Heat, Wizards, Hawks and Cavs. Just one back-to-back in there, though. The Thunder’s schedule also has a lot of balance to it. Nineteen of their first 41 games are at home, meaning 22 of their final 41 are at home. No big swings of road to home.
A middle-of-the-road amount for OKC with 18. And am I crazy, or are there no four-in-five nights in there?
No question it’s January. It already has the aforementioned stretch of games, it has the longest road run, and games against the Warriors, Wizards (twice), Rockets, Heat, Cavs, Hawks, Knicks and Grizzlies. There are three back-to-backs that month, with one stretch of four games in six days. The Thunder play 14 games that month, with 10 on the road and just four at home.
Put me down for March. They get most of the month at home (six road, nine home), with games against the Lakers (twice), Sixers, Wolves, Celtics and Jazz. There are some challenges, but only four of the difficult games are on the road (Bulls, Spurs, Mavs and Suns).
WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND
The Thunder always prefer to avoid Saturday home games and instead play on Sunday. The reasoning is that they are wanting to avoid conflicting with college football, which makes sense. The Thunder do play once on Saturday this season — their home opener on Nov. 1 — and have 18 Sunday games (11 at home) and 18 Friday games (12 at home).
LOOK AT ME NOW
The Thunder make 25 national TV appearances this season (10 ESPN, nine TNT and six on ABC). And that’s not counting the seven on NBATV, which I don’t. (Why? Because NBATV is hardly “national TV.” First, not that many people get the channel and secondly, you get local announcers on the game. There’s a certain feel to a national TV game, which you most certainly don’t get on NBATV. Besides, the games are blacked out in OKC so you don’t get to see them anyway.) Twenty-five ties the Thunder with the Cavs and Bulls for the most appearances on national television. But remember: OKC is a small market and Kevin Durant has to leave if anyone is ever going to see him play.