If you don’t want to watch the 2014-15 regular season and would just like to know how it was going to go, well then I have just the thing for you. But if you want to be surprised, I’d suggest going elsewhere. Because I’m about to tell you EXACTLY how the Thunder’s season will play out.
Two factors contribute to this yearly post: 1) Having a schedule to look and stare at and think about; and 2) it being August.
ESPN Forecast has the Thunder at 58-24, which is the same record it had OKC for last season. This season, the Thunder have been pegged to have the league’s most challenging schedule, but with a presumably healthy Russell Westbrook ready for all 82, and a growing, deeper roster, they could be set up to surpass that prediction. Think about that: They won 59 a year ago with a top seven player sitting nearly half the season.
So let’s go through the schedule piece by piece, and sort this season out:
Oct. 29 — Nov. 4 (at Portland, at LA Clippers, Denver, at Brooklyn, at Toronto)
Well this is just a silly way to start the season. Five games in seven days spanning a total of about 4,100 miles. There are a number of reasons the Thunder could get off to a bit of a sluggish start this season, namely installing some new offensive structures, but the biggest issue is how difficult the first week is. Really, a 2-3 start would be pretty solid. But since Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be rested and very ready for the start of the season, I’ll give ’em an extra game in there. I’m thinking a split between the Clippers and Blazers, win the home opener, and then a split between Toronto and Brooklyn.
Record through five: 3-2
Nov. 7 — Nov. 19 (Memphis, Sacramento, at Milwaukee, at Boston, Detroit, Houston, at Utah, at Denver, Brooklyn, Golden State, Utah, New York)
If the Thunder do indeed start slowly in that brutal opening week, the next 12 games will give them a good chance to get right. Games against seven non-playoff teams, with the five against playoff clubs being all at home. I hesitate to give the Thunder a 12-game win streak here so early into the season, especially because there are a few landmine games in there like at Denver and home against Memphis and the Warriors, but this should be a good opportunity for the Thunder to stack a few wins and get atop the West early in the season.
Record through 17: 13-4
Dec. 2 — Dec. 19 (at New Orleans, at Philadelphia, at Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, at Minnesota, Phoenix, at Sacramento, at Golden State, at LA Lakers)
Another stretch of games of only moderate difficulty. Obviously there’s the biggie in there against the Cavs, plus the Warriors and Suns are pretty solid. The Pelicans could be a surprise team and make things difficult, but the Thunder should be able to take at least eight of 10 here. The back-to-back finishing a West Coast trip against the Warriors and Lakers could be dangerous.
Record through 27: 21-6
Dec. 21 — Jan. 16 (New Orleans, Portland, at San Antonio, Charlotte, at Dallas, Phoenix, Washington, at Golden State, at Sacramento, Utah, at Houston, Golden State)
Is it just me or does it seem like the Thunder play the Warriors 30 times each season? But here’s where things start getting tougher. There’s the big game against the Spurs on Christmas, plus at the Mavericks, at the Warriors, and at the Rockets. Other than the Kings and Jazz, this is 12 games against nine possible playoff teams. The Thunder have seven of them at home, which is certainly helpful, but they showed last season they aren’t immune to dropping games in OKC. Even against poor teams.
Record through 39: 29-10
Jan. 18 — Jan. 31 (at Orlando, at Miami, at Washington, at Atlanta, at Cleveland, Minnesota, at New York, at Memphis)
Woof. Outside of the kickoff game against the Magic and the home game against the Wolves, this is a patch of games all up in the air. And even the game in Orlando is no gimme, as evidenced by that walk-off dunk last season. Not only does this stretch contain the longest road trip of the season, but it sends the Thunder to some high profile games like KD’s visit to D.C. and to Cleveland to take on LeBron. There are two back-to-backs and total, it’s eight games in 13 days. The most difficult run of games on the schedule in my estimation. A split would be good work, in all reality.
Record through 47: 33-14
Feb. 2 — Feb. 27 (Orlando, at New Orleans, New Orleans, LA Clippers, at Denver, Memphis, Dallas, at Charlotte, Denver, Indiana, at Phoenix, at Portland)
Let’s jump through February in one swoop. The short month has just 12 games, with five road and seven home. Some difficult — Clippers, at the Hornets, Memphis, at Portland and Phoenix — and some not so difficult. Also: What’s the deal with the yearly back-to-back thing the Thunder do with the Pelicans? Is that by request from the teams? Is it some kind of geographical thing?
Record through 59: 42-17
March 1 — March 24 (at LA Lakers, Philadelphia, at Chicago, Toronto, LA Clippers, Minnesota, Chicago, at Dallas, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, LA Lakers)
The Thunder are set to spend most of March at home. In the first 12 games, nine are in Oklahoma City. Which includes two four-game homestands. Some good games, too — Raptors, Clippers, Bulls and Heat. Plus Kobe.
Record through 71: 52-19
March 25 — April 7 (at San Antonio, at Utah, at Phoenix, Dallas, at Memphis, Houston, San Antonio)
This is where the West could be decided. The Thunder and Spurs play each other twice within 13 days, and with only three games total between the teams, the tiebreaker will be settled here. Because of this quirk, the Thunder don’t get the Spurs in OKC until April 7, when things could already be firmed up and Pop is resting guys, or it could be a visit that decides the No. 1 seed. However, if you recall from last season, the four games against the Spurs weren’t really at all what decided the West’s seeding. OKC went 4-0 against San Antonio, and it was the bad losses like against the Pelicans and home against the Cavs that really did the Thunder in. So while those two against the Spurs will be circled, really it’ll be about beating the Jazz in Utah and focusing against good teams like the Suns, Grizzlies and Rockets. These 13 days will be big for the Thunder if they want to reclaim homecourt.
Record through 78: 57-21
April 10 — April 15 (Sacramento, at Indiana, Portland, at Minnesota)
The Thunder wrap their 2014-15 regular season campaign fairly innocently, which means they’re bound to drop at least one dumb game. Probably home against the Kings. The game against the Wolves could be meaningless which means Hasheem Thabeet starts or something, so that’s a toss-up. But I think the Thunder are set to return to 60 wins this season, so I’m saying three out of four to finish.
Record through 82: 60-22