For the first time since its season opener at San Antonio on Nov. 1, the Thunder has played more road games than home games.
When folks around here last saw OKC play in person, the team's schedule was extremely top-heavy, having played five more home games than road games.
Back from a six-game road trip — the longest in franchise history — the Thunder's sked will be perfectly balanced at 23 games played both home and away when Thursday's 7 p.m. contest against Memphis is completed at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Many factors will influence what transpires the remainder of the 82-game regular season.
- Good health always is integral.
Golden State got healthier with the return of center Andrew Bogut from an ankle injury, but exactly how healthy is that perpetually troublesome right ankle of should-be All-Star guard Stephen Curry?
New York bulked up with the returns of forward Amar'e Stoudemire (knee) and point guard Raymond Felton (finger), and Chicago will soon do the same whenever Derrick Rose returns from last season's knee injury.
Meanwhile, Boston's chances of making the playoffs are teetering after losing All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo for the season with a knee injury.
- The trade deadline looms on Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.
Will Memphis relinquish or solidify itself as a contender by dealing or keeping forward Rudy Gay?
Will shooting guard J.J. Redick leave Orlando and fill a void with a playoff team?
What to do with the Los Angeles Lakers? Is trading center Dwight Howard actually an option, or are they finally headed in the right direction?
- Far more subtle in its significance is a team's schedule.
Who a team plays, and where, often become the biggest factors in determining playoff seeds.
Teams that already have played a difficult schedule this season will face a less difficult schedule the rest of the way.
This is good news for the Lakers, who have the league's No. 2 strength of schedule to date at .520, according to ESPN.com's Relative Percent Index. SOS also will benefit No. 3 Memphis (.519), No. 4 Denver (.516), No. 5 San Antonio (.514) and No. 6 Golden State (.513).
This is not such good news for No. 29 Chicago (.484), No. 28 Indiana (.485), No. 25 Atlanta (.487), No. 20 New York (.495), nor Brooklyn and defending world champion Miami, who are tied at No. 15 (.498).
Every team ends up playing 41 games at home and on the road, but the discrepancy between the two at this point cannot be ignored (see chart).
The Thunder's overall strength of schedule to date has been exactly .500, which essentially translates to what you've seen is what you'll get from OKC the rest of the way.
If the Thunder maintains its current winning percentage of .756, that would equate to a 62-20 season and the West's No. 2 seed behind 63-19 San Antonio if the Spurs maintain at .766 while playing an easier remaining schedule.
Here is the home/away breakdown for Western Conference playoff contenders, ranked by home/away differential in remaining games:
TEAM; HOME; AWAY; SOS; H/A DIFF
Utah; 15-4; 9-16; .487; +6
Denver; 17-3; 10-15; .516; +5
San Antonio; 20-2; 16-9; .514; +3
Golden State; 14-6; 12-11; .513; +3
Thunder; 19-3; 15-8; .500; +1
Houston; 15-8; 9-14; .512; 0
Portland; 15-8; 7-14; .497; -2
LA Clippers; 20-5; 13-8; .510; -4
LA Lakers; 14-10; 5-15; .520; -4
Memphis; 17-7; 11-8; .519; -5
Note: Through Monday's games. SOS is strength of schedule for games played to date.