The full NBA schedule was released yesterday giving fans a glimpse into the near basketball future.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, there are a plethora of big games. 36 nationally televised contests — for context, the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers will be on 41 nationally televised games — games on Opening Night, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
While we are still over a month away from the start of preseason, there is no shame in getting excited for the year. Over this week, you will be able to dive into the top 10 games to look for on the Thunder’s schedule.
The first three games dropped on Monday, you can view them here. Friday will feature the top four games to look for on the schedule. Here are 7, 6 and 5.
#7 OKC @ Portland Trailblazers – March 7th
Did you know the last time the Thunder beat the Trailblazers in Portland that Adam Silver had just began his reign as commissioner of the NBA? February 11, 2014 was the last time Oklahoma City found victory in the Pacific Northwest. This series brings out some interesting factoids, like:
- Billy Donovan has yet to win in the Rose Garden
- When Oklahoma City won in 2014, Westbrook was dealing with injury and did not play.
- The last time Westbrook won in Portland – April 12, 2013!
- Paul George has never won in Portland.
- Entered the league in 2010-11 with Indiana, missed most of the 2014-15 year due to injury.
- The Pacers haven’t won in Portland since 2007-08.
- Steven Adams has not won in Portland since supplanting Kendrick Perkins as the starting center. He played 12.5 minutes in a backup role in the 2014 win.
This is all made worse when you remember the Thunder were swept last season by the ‘Blazers and are 4-13 in the last four seasons against them. If Oklahoma City drops the first game in Portland on January 4th, this will be their last shot to reverse their fortune in that arena. Considering the Thunder were held at bay by the ‘Blazers last season for the 3 seed, Oklahoma City can show some development if they are able to get over the Damian Lillard hump.
#6 OKC @ Utah Jazz – December 22nd
This will be the first game in Salt Lake City since the Thunder were eliminated in Game 6 of last year’s playoffs. A game where Westbrook took 43 shots and shot 19 three pointers. Paul George was also on the floor apparently.
The Jazz made no headlines in the off season. While other teams added bigger names or tried chasing better talent, Utah instead chose to pull a Sam Presti “develop internally.” Donovan Mitchell’s second year is poised to pick up from the exciting conclusion of last year. The focus for the Thunder is that while they upgraded in the off season by retaining their star in George as well as adding new names, they need to prove to themselves that they can beat a healthy, improving Jazz squad.
The layout of the schedule around this game is interesting. After this matchup, the Thunder head back home to play Minnesota before going back on the road for a three game road-trip. Schedule losses are apart of the game, but Oklahoma City can earn some serious credit if they are able to get a tough win on the road in Salt Lake City before going on an extended trip.
The Northwest Division will more than likely be the toughest division in basketball. Every team is a playoff contender. The Jazz and Thunder occupy the top of the division in the eyes of many. These games will be important for confidence and development.
#5 Boston Celtics @ OKC – November 8th
If ever there was a game last season that signified the 2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder’s ultimate trajectory, it was last year’s Celtics/Thunder matchup at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Everything you could want from a basketball team in the first half and everything you can despise in the second.
After jumping to a 55-37 halftime lead, Oklahoma City’s offense squandered. Down the stretch, the Thunder defense forgot that Al Horford is allowed to shoot threes.
The Thunder will of course have their hands full with a tough Western Conference. But Boston represents what Oklahoma City wants to be. The Thunder have their core for the future as well as young talent that can develop. If they want to Boston’s level, exercising some of last year’s demons against the Celtics at home could go a long way in setting up some early season success.
This game even falls around the same time as the game in Oklahoma City last year (November 4, 2017).