With the NBA finally slated to return, details have emerged about the new format. The resumption of the league will include 22 teams.
There will be eight regular-season games played before the postseason starts.
Each side will follow their original season schedule; however, the eight teams who were not invited to Orland will be excluded.
According to these details, the Thunder’s schedule changes slightly. Atlanta, Minnesota, Golden State, and Charlotte will all be dropped from the plan. Oklahoma City’s remaining games are as follows: the Thunder will play the Jazz, the Wizards, the Grizzlies, the Nuggets, the Heat, the Nuggets, the Suns and the Clippers.
Oklahoma City has a combined record of 6-7 against these eight teams. The Thunder’s best record comes against the Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City went 2-0 against the Suns. The Thunder’s worst record went against an Eastern Conference duo; Washington and Miami both beat Oklahoma City, and the season series stands at 0-1.
There are a few essential questions that stem from the restart of basketball.
The most apparent problem is which games are the most important out of the remaining eight fixtures? The two games versus the Nuggets should top the list for the Thunder.
The Oklahoma City Thunder play the Nuggets twice which could be crucial in the race for the third seed. Only 2.5 games separate the fifth-seeded Thunder and the third-seeded Nuggets; winning both of those games would put Oklahoma City in pole position to get a favorable match-up in the first round.
The Thunder’s first game upon the restart of the season is against the Jazz; the game will be a replay of the fixture abandoned in early March. This is the most crucial game for Oklahoma City, as it could be a preview of the first round of the playoffs.
At present, the standings will mean the Thunder will draw the Jazz in the first round. A win would give the Thunder the season series versus the Jazz. This win will give the Thunder the tiebreaker if records are equal at the end of the regular season.
A victory against Utah would also provide momentum for the Thunder heading into a possible playoff series.
I believe that the Thunder will finish the regular season with a record of 5-3. I predict that the Thunder will win their first three games versus the Jazz, Wizards, and Grizzlies. Oklahoma City will split the series with Denver and pick up another victory against the Suns.
This would give Oklahoma a record of 45-27 heading into the playoffs. Hopefully, this record will be kind enough to move the Thunder into a higher seed in the Western Conference standings.
However, if the Thunder has shown us anything this season, these games will be hard-fought. Oklahoma City will need to scrap for every single win.
The Thunder will need one of the team’s customary comeback victories.