The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the middle of some of their best basketball of the season, riding a seven game winning streak into this week's slate of games.
OKC only has three games on the schedule and at the moment all of their opponents are in the NBA Playoffs--looking at you Detroit--and two out of the three games are on the road.
There are still questions about this team (bench play, rotations, asking too much of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, is this the end of KD in OKC) but for now let's enjoy the sunshine and pretty flowers that is the league's longest current win streak.
03/28 at Toronto Raptors
FORECAST: Wind Advisory with lows in the high teens
The Raptors are clawing at the Cleveland Cavaliers in an attempt to knock LeBron, and his ever changing moods, out of the top seed in the East. Currently, they are just 2.5 games back with 10 games left on their schedule.
Toronto has gotten great play from their own superstar duo as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have both put forth career seasons in "The Six". However, the Raptors have found the right complimentary pieces that have turned them into the biggest threat at usurping King James for the Eastern Conference throne.
This is the first time that KD will play in Toronto since his 51-point, 12-rebound, 7-assist explosion in their 2014 double overtime face off, which included a 25-plus foot game winning three. It would be nice to see KD drop another 50-piece, but hopefully the rest of the team is at it's best and such a Herculean effort isn't required out of either of the Thunder's stars.
PREDICTION: Thunder 108, Raptors 103
On the Doppler Radar: Russell Westbrook vs Kyle Lowry
Two of the game's best point guards square off in what should be a great head-to-head matchup. While Lowry is lacking in the height department he has the stocky build and strength to bang with Westbrook if he tries to go to his post game. During this seven game win streak Russ is averaging 20 PPG, 11 RPG and 9.4 APG and this looks like it could potentially be the game where he notched his 16th triple double of the season.
03/29 at Detroit Pistons
FORECAST: Winter Weather Advisory
Every game down the stretch has become a must-win game for the Pistons. They hold a two-game edge over the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the East, but they are also only a half game behind Indiana for the seventh seed.
Though the Cavs have looked beatable of late it still is favorable to face the Raptors instead.
Stan Van Gundy has built Orlando-Midwest in Detroit with Andre Drummond as a new-age Dwight Howard. Any meeting with the Pistons also means the return of Reggie "I'm a starter" Jackson. While the game is at The Palace of Auburn Hills, feel free to boo Reggie whenever he touches the ball from home.
OKC is head and shoulders the better team, but coming off a back-to-back (and possibly a hard fought game against the Raptors), with travel from Canada to middle America could all calculate into an upsetting loss for the Thunder. This is a team that holds a 17-11 record against the Eastern Conference.
PREDICTION: Thunder 111, Pistons 115
On the Doppler Radar: Kevin Durant vs Stanley Johnson
Stanley Johnson was a prospect that all of Oklahoma City fans fell in love with during the pre draft process, but the Pistons snatched him away with the eighth overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft. Johnson has had an up and down rookie season mostly due to a few nagging injuries. Now he is tasked with guarding Durant instead of teaming up with him. KD has been on a tear as evidenced by his 58-game 20-plus point streak. Don't expect the streak to stop against the rookie, but it will be a fun battle to watch.
03/31 vs Los Angeles Clippers
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy with on and off showers throughout the day
Just a couple "5 Day Forecasts" ago I was talking about how close the Clippers were to overtaking the Thunder for the third seed. Now, OKC a has built its lead back up to five and a half games--what a difference a win streak makes.
The Clippers announced yesterday that star forward Blake Griffin has been medically cleared to play, but he still has to serve a four-game suspension for Sucker Punch Gate. The fourth game of that suspension just happens to be this Thursday night TNT meeting.
While Griffin will be missed, Los Angeles has shown that it can get the best of the Thunder with him on the sidelines. That fourth quarter collapse was the turning point in OKC's late game woes narrative and has become the elephant in the room of an otherwise solid Oklahoma City season.
This is probably the toughest game left on the Thunder schedule at this point and a win here can go a long way to keeping spirits high as the postseason approaches.
PREDICTION: Thunder 120, Clippers 105
On the Doppler Radar: Dion Waiters vs Jamal Crawford
The Clippers are starting to make a push for Crawford to win another Sixth Man of the Year award, however, we all here at Welcome To Loud City know that the award rightfully belongs to one Enes Kanter. It now falls on the shoulders of Dion Waiters to keep Crawford in check to keep him from spoiling the glory our $70 million dollar Turkish offensive wunderkind deserves. It is also on said $70 million dollar man to continue to pour in the double-doubles, but putting Kanter vs Crawford in this section seemed like a stretch and plus all of Oklahoma City is ready to blame Dion when anything goes wrong for the Thunder already.