Thunder should stay in playoff race all season
Most agreed back in October during training camp the Thunder wouldn’t make the playoffs this season but would be serious contenders in 2010-11.
But there have been signs for several weeks the league’s second youngest team might arrive a year ahead of scheule, at worst make monitoring the standings worthwhile into April.
When the NBA released its 2009-10 schedule in early August, knowing the Thunder finished 23-59 last season, I wrote if the Thunder could be around 14-18 or 13-19 after New Year’s Eve they might stay in the playoff race.
Many felt I was too optimistic to suggest the Thunder could compile 13 or 14 wins heading into 2010.
Turns out we were all off target.
The Thunder already has 15 wins a couple days after Christmas. They should be no worse than 16-16 after New Year’s Eve, probably 17-15 or better. It’s not impossible they could be 18-14, riding a five-game winning streak
There are four reasons the Thunder should stay in the playoff race all season.
1) A young team has learned how to win on the road. OKC is 7-7 away from the Ford Center heading into Monday’s game at New Jersey. Even more impressive is the Thunder has won at Phoenix, Utah, San Antonio, Miami and Detroit. Even the road win at Memphis is more noteworthy than most realize.
2) The Thunder has learned how to beat the “bad” teams. Last season OKC was like the other teams that finished with a lot of lottery balls. They won their share but also lost their share against other “bad” teams.
So far this season, the Thunder is 10-2 teams with a losing record. They can’t keep up that pace up but it’s a sign a young team has learned to not play down to its competition level.
3) The schedule gets way easier. It’s been reported on this website a lot the last two weeks that the final 58 games after Christmas are a lot easier than the first 24 before Christmas. (Go back to Point No. 2). Take advantage of the softer schedule and you should stay in the race.
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