The Thunder's schedule was released yesterday! It might not seem that exciting considering that we play the same teams every year, but it always gives a little bit of an inkling as to how the season will unfold. When do we play the league's best teams? When do we appear on National TV? When will our mid-season slump occur? Who do we have to play four times in the West? All of that and more was answered yesterday. Here's some tidbits from the new schedule.
- The Thunder appear on ESPN, ABC, and TNT 24 times this season. That's tied for the second most in the NBA. The Heat, Lakers, and Knicks are all tied for first with the maximum allowed 25 appearances on all three networks. (If you're wondering, national TV appearances mostly have to do with the size of a TV Market and the team's national appeal. The Knicks and Lakers have huge markets and interesting teams, while the Thunder and Heat have smaller markets but a lot of national interest. That's why the Spurs never seem to get on national TV.)
- The Thunder appear on ABC 4 times, 5th most in the NBA. The Heat and Knicks will appear on ABC 6 times, while the Lakers and Bulls will appear 5 times. The Thunder's 4 games on ABC are at the Knicks on Christmas Day, versus the Knicks on February 9th, versus the Clippers on February 23rd, and at the Lakers on March 9th.
- As usual, the Thunder will play the teams in their division four times and the teams in the Eastern Conference two times. In terms of other teams in the West, they will play San Antonio, Memphis, Houston, both LA teams, and Sacramento four times. They will play Dallas, New Orleans, Golden State, and Phoenix three times. The combined winning percentage of the West teams that the Thunder will play 4 times is .585, while the winning percentage of the teams that the Thunder will play three times is .427. It should be noted, however, that the Thunder's division will likely be particularly weak this year.
- The Thunder's longest road trip will be four games. This is exceptionally rare in NBA scheduling, as teams will usually get at least a 5 game road trip. My best guess is that it's to make up for the tough schedule the Thunder have to deal with, outlined in the above bullet point. The long road trip will be from April 4th-April 9th, and features visits to the Rockets, Suns, Kings, and Clippers.
- The Thunder have two six game homestands. The first will happen from November 18th-December 1st, and feature games against the Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz, Spurs, Warriors, and Timberwolves. The second will happen from February 20th-March 4th, and feature games against the Heat, Clippers, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Bobcats, and 76ers.
- The Thunder will play 15 back to backs this year. They have one four game in five night stretch, from January 21st-January 25th. The matchups will be the Trail Blazers at home, the Spurs on the road, the Celtics on the road, and the 76ers on the road. That's one heck of a travel schedule.
- As expected, the Thunder will have no Saturday home games during football season. They do, however, play 1 game on the road. Their November 16th game at the Bucks will occur on the same day that OU faces Iowa State and OSU takes on Texas. The college football times are TBA, so we still don't know whether the games will occur at the same time.
- As a side effect of this, the Thunder play tons of games on Sunday. The Thunder will play 15 home games on that day, which is 37% of them. By contrast, they only have two Sunday road games, and both are late in the season.
- Remember when I looked at the Thunder's 5 year splits? The two teams that haven't beaten OKC since 2008 are Detroit and Philadelphia. Detroit gets the first shot at winning on November 8th, but their next shot won't be until on the last game of the season, on April 16th. Given that the Thunder will tank their last game of the season if their seed is locked, it's likely that the Pistons have a real shot at winning. The 76ers will get a decent shot as well. They get the Thunder at home on the back end of a four game in five night stand on January 25th, as well as a ho-hum road matchup on March 4th. If one of these unbeaten streaks can stay alive, I'll be a happy man.
All in all, the Thunder's schedule is pretty easy. They have two long homestands, only one four game in five night stretch, and no long road trips. Their count of 15 back to backs is on the low end of the NBA, and their division could very well contain 4 non-playoff teams next year. They do face a lot of good Western teams four times, but that's about all you could say against it. In other words, if the Thunder bumble to a low seed this year, you can't blame it on this.
What do you think of the Thunder's schedule? Drop a comment and let us know!