At the season’s midway point, general manager Sam Presti was asked about the Thunder’s chances of making the playoffs.
Presti’s response was predictable but dead on.
"There’s a healthy respect and humility from our group just how hard that is (to make the playoffs in the West),” Presti said. "There’s also an understanding we can’t control how other teams play.”
Other teams below the Thunder in the standings haven’t been playing well which is why it will be shocking if Oklahoma City doesn’t make the playoffs.
But Thunder fans euphoric with Oklahoma City’s spot in the standings need to be forewarned it will be a tremendous challenge to finish as the No. 4, 5 or 6 seed.
The 11 West contenders remaining schedules reveal why the Thunder should reach the playoffs but finishing 4, 5 or 6 means Oklahoma City will have to win some tough road games and continue playing well at home (OKC is 10-3 at the Ford Center since Dec. 18).
→New Orleans, hampered by Chris Paul’s injury, has the most difficult schedule (see chart). The Hornets are a long shot.
→Memphis’ schedule is comparable to Oklahoma City’s but the Grizzlies’ recent struggles will make it tough to stay in the race to the end.
→Houston’s schedule isn’t overwhelming. But it appears 46 wins might be needed to crash the post-season party. Despite trading for Kevin Martin, losing Sixth Man award candidate Carl Landry will make it difficult for the Rockets to finish 10 games over .500.
Since Oklahoma City needs to only play .500 ball the rest of the season to reach 46 wins, the real drama the final two months could be the race for the No. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 seeds.
Every team wants to avoid the No.