The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered their third loss in four games after losing at home to the New York Knicks, 129-119. Given the ass-whooping OKC delivered at Madison Square Garden over a week ago, it was not surprising to see a motivated Knicks side return the favor, dropping the Thunder to 7-10.
The Thunder will play three of their next five games at home before embarking on a critical five-game road trip in December. How they perform over this stretch might dictate where they land in a crowded Western Conference at the turn of the calendar year.
The Thunder will host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday and it is still uncertain if reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic will be present as he aims to exit from Covid-19 protocols. Ditto for Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon, who missed their recent contest with illness.
Denver is one of the current top-4 teams in the West but they have been inconsistent of late, having lost 4 of their last 10. Their differential for the season is now at 0.0.
OKC then plays host to Chicago and former coach, Billy Donovan. The Bulls are 7-10 and have started slowly in the Eastern Conference.
Both contests are winnable for OKC, especially if Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to play out of his mind.
The Thunder then travel to Houston on the second night of a back-to-back. While those situations are never easy, the Thunder are facing a Rockets squad who are not in the playoff picture and currently only have three wins in 17 games. Houston also has a -7.4 average point differential.
OKC then travel to New Orleans before returning for a quick one game pit-stop at home to host San Antonio. The Pelicans might be a headache given their collection of talent and stellar recent play, but the Spurs, now losers of 5 straight, should be an easy victory. The Spurs are bricking for Vic and should be a straight-forward match-up for the Thunder.
The road trip will then proceed as follows: at Minnesota, Atlanta, Memphis, Cleveland, and Dallas. All of those squads are playoff caliber opponents, with each contest providing a unique set of challenges for the developing Thunder.
The good news is that the Thunder close December with eight of their last nine games at home. It will be a favourable run of fixtures but before getting there, they first have to take care of business and focus on the challenges immediately in front of them.