By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
The NBA regular season often feels drawn-out and redundant, spanning six months and stretched out to 82 games.
Last season almost felt like a reprieve (for fans watching it, not players laboring through it), with 66 condensed games starting on Christmas day.
But we’re back to the elongated slate this year.
And you know what that means!! More midseason 20-point routs in Charlotte and unenergized showings in Milwaukee.
But let’s forget about those until they get here. For now, with Thunder Eve upon us, let’s take a look at the 10 most intriguing regular season matchups for Oklahoma City, the ones to look forward to over the next six months:
10. November 1 – at San Antonio Spurs
Defense of the Western Conference crown begins against the team OKC snatched it from. Opening night is fun for every team and city, but especially ones that have a legit shot at the title. The Thunder do.
9. March 10 vs Boston Celtics
Duels with the Celtics are always more fun because of their genuine disdain for anyone who dare step on the court to challenge them. KG will stare and yap, Kendrick Perkins will scowl back. Should be a fun mid-March cross conference showdown in the Thunder Dome.
8. December 4 – at Brooklyn Nets
I’m a sucker for new and shiny things. The Brooklyn Nets, with their sparkling arena and revamped (yet overhyped) roster, is exactly that. So at least for a night, it will be fun to watch KD and Westbrook light it up in downtown Brooklyn for the first time, with Jay-Z and Beyonce at center court.
7. November 21 – vs Los Angeles Clippers
Oklahoma City fans’ only chance to see hometown hero Blake Griffin comes in the first month (barring a playoff matchup). And any team with Chris Paul is always fun to watch. This provides the highlight of a relatively dull home slate during the early stretch of the season.
6. April 17 – vs Milwaukee Bucks
Before you ask the obvious question (Why the heck is a terrible home game against the Bucks on the list?) hear me out. This is game 82 of 82, a likely meaningless walkthrough with the Thunder’s playoff spot and seed already clinched. But it marks a special time. The end of the regular season means the beginning of the postseason, where basketball is taken to a whole new level. The best part about this game will be daydreaming about what’s ahead.
5. December 25 – at Miami Heat
What a Christmas gift. We get our first NBA Finals rematch, on the same floor Miami grabbed the title from OKC less than five months ago. And anytime you get KD v LeBron, DWade v Westbrook and Serge v Bosh as the cross-matchups on a basketball court, you can’t go wrong.
4. December 7 – vs Los Angeles Lakers
Our first chance to see what many have already penciled in as this year’s Western Conference Finals.
3. March 5 – vs Los Angeles Lakers
Our last chance (of this regular season) to see the matchup. And this is the one that will be most interesting. Kevin Martin should be properly adjusted to his new role in OKC and the Lakers star collection will be four months into Year 1 of the experiment. Both should be refined for the stretch run, and this will be a great barometer of things to come.
2. November 28 – vs Houston Rockets
Two questions I’ve got for this one:
1.) Who wins the intriguing Russell Westbrook v James Harden battle? I hope we get some friendly trash talk.
2.) And how will the OKC crowd greet The Beard they loved so much? I’m guessing cheers and a standing O.
1. February 14 – vs Miami Heat
The last time these two teams met on this court, LeBron’s controversial defensive bump against KD (which went without a call) sent the Finals back to Miami in a tie. Everyone expected it to come back. It never did. Now, frothing at the mouth and eight months too late, the OKC home crowd will get their chance to impact a Heat-Thunder game.