A difficult challenge for some sports fans is avoiding knee-jerk reactions.
The Thunder wins nine a row and a few fans start dreaming of a No. 2 or 3 seed.
Now that they’ve lost two in a row, it’s no time to panic following losses to Phoenix and San Antonio, although the loss to the Suns was the first time all season the Thunder gave a game away, blowing a 10-point lead the final three minutes.
In its daily playoff projections, ESPN lists the Thunder’s odds off reaching the playoffs at 96 percent. That’s a shade high. But not much. OKC’s chances have to be 90 percent or higher because of the way its played the past two months and the Hornets, Grizzlies and Rockets inability to sustain momentum.
The Thunder could climb as high as No. 4. But that’s unlikely. For that to happen the Jazz would have to play close to .500 ball the rest of the season. The Thunder could still reach 50 wins, but that probably wouldn’t be enough for home-court advantage in the opening around of the playoffs.
The best drama the next seven weeks for Thunder fans will be the battle for the 5, 6, 7 and 8 seeds with Phoenix, San Antonio and Portland.
The next three weeks, starting with a three-game homestand that opens Friday night against Minnesota, is an opportunity for the Thunder to move closer to nailing down a playoff berth and solidfy its chances of possibly finishing No. 5 or 6.
OKC has a better record than 10 of its next 12 opponents. The toughest games are at Denver, a home game with Utah and road games at Toronto and Charlotte. It’s not a given the Thunder will win the remaining eight games. Upsets happen.
But if the Thuder can go 9-3 the next three weeks, they would be sitting at 42-26 with only 14 games to play, essentially clinching a playoff berth and making them a viable contender for a higher seed.
An 8-4 record the next three weeks would still build some momentum.
Expectations have risen compared to pre-season predictions OKC would win around 35 games, possibly have a shot at .500.
But because the Thunder arrived a year early, 7-5 or anything worse the next three weeks would have to be viewed as a disappointment considering they’re entering the easiest portion of the schedule all season.