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Breakdown of the 2009-10 Thunder schedule

After two hours of analyzing, re-analyzing and overanalyzing Oklahoma City’s 2009-10 schedule, it’s clear that the Thunder have 41 home games and 41 road games. I definitely know that much. So it’s good to get that out of the way. Anyway, let’s break this baby down.

Toughest five game stretch
OKC’s schedule isn’t friendly to open up the season. There’s a bunch of toughies mixed in there and by the looks of it, the Thunder could realistically be staring at a 2-8 start. The five game run from Oct. 30-Nov. 8 of at home against Detroit, home against Portland, home against the Champs, on the road in Houston and home against Orlando looks to be the nastiest on there. Detroit and Houston aren very winnable games as both those rosters are in a bit of a transition, but they’ve still got good players. From March 22-30 OKC plays San Antonio, Houston, the Lakers, Portland and Philly, which is extremely tough in its own right, but four of those five are at home.

Easiest five game stretch
The fluff appears to come on the backside of OKC’s schedule, with a lot of non-playoff teams from 2008 on the docket in March and April. I like the stretch from March 5-14 with at the Clippers, at Sacto, home against New Orleans, home against the Nets and home against Utah. Three of the five at the Ford Center and just two playoff teams from 2008, with both of those games coming at home. April 4-11 has a decent five game go with home against Minny, Denver and Phoenix and road battles against Golden State and Utah. But Denver is in the class of the Western Conference and while the game is at home, Carmelo Anthony will almost certainly tear the hearts out of our chest Temple of Doom style anyway.

Five games you can’t miss
Nov. 3 – Lakers at Thunder It’s an early trip to OKC for the defending champs, but it will be good. If the Thunder’s much improved as we think they are, this could be a statement game.

Nov. 15 – Clippers at Thunder Everybody wants to see Chris Kaman and Nenad Krstic go head-to-head in this mega-matchup. It’ll be an epic matchup of bald spots and less than agile white centers. But seriously, this is your only chance to see Blake Griffin back in Oklahoma and that alone is worth going. Plus, Baron Davis’s beard versus James Harden’s. That’ll be good too.

Dec. 13 – Cavs at Thunder LeBron James. Kevin Durant. We settle the debate… TONIGHT! You can’t ever miss the chance to see LeBron play because at some point he is going to take off and dunk from halfcourt and you have to make sure you’re there to see it.

Jan. 29 – Nuggets at Thunder You know it’s going to be a great game (probably something like 146-145 in seven OTs) and we’re all going to be talking about the three Kevin Durant hit to answer Melo’s that happened two seconds earlier. That’s what’s going to happen. You’ll see.

March 10 – Hornets at Thunder We’re just going to pretend for one second that this game is going to mean a ton because both teams are in contention for the 8-seed in the West. And how awesome would that be? Not only having the prodigal son return, but the game being extremely important for both sides? Yes. Please.

Toughest month
We’re going to find out a lot about this team early on. Both November and December look extremely tough, but November gets the nod because of the three back-to-backs. Nov. 10-11, 14-15 and then 17-18. What did we ever do to you, NBA Scheduler Guy? Both months OKC has 15 games with eight at home. But November has 10 games against playoff teams with December having nine. Neither month is pretty, but November is fairly brutal.

Easiest month
It’s like whoever made this thing did this on purpose. Both January and February are considerably lighter, with 15 games in January (seven home) and 11 in February (five home). Games against Cleveland, Dallas, San Antonio and Denver are the four toughest in January, and there’s a lot of non-playoff teams sprinkled in there. Last year, the Thunder really turned things around in January as the schedule got easier and more and more player from opposing teams were taking nights off. February is nice because there’s just 11 games, but there’s also two back-to-backs, so games are getting crammed in there.

Last season, OKC didn’t have a single home game on a Saturday night. The reasoning was likely to avoid overlap of OU and OSU football games. Even still, two games did that – Bedlam and the Big 12 title game. Just once is the entire state in action. On November 14, OU plays at home against Texas A&M and OSU is in Stillwater against Texas Tech while the Thunder are in San Antonio. There’s one more potential conflict, but that’s January 4th – the Fiesta Bowl. Both OU and OSU are potential favorites to win the Big 12 and that’s where the winner is tied to.

Big home stands
The Thunder has a couple good sized home stands – five games  from Nov. 27 to Dec. 7 with matchups against Milwaukee, Philly, Houston, Boston and Golden State. There’s also three four-game homestands – Jan. 6-13, Jan. 2 – Feb. 2. and March 22-28.

Big road trips
There’s five three-game roadies on the schedule, but OKC’s only major road trip comes Jan. 18-23 with tilts against Atlanta, Memphis, Minnesota and Cleveland. OKC heads to the West Coast early this year with two games in California in November. The Thunder didn’t go West until late January last year.

There’s three early on in November – Nov. 10-11, 14-15 and 17-18 and 18 total for OKC this season, which is on the low end (only two teams have fewer – NOLA, 16 and San Antonio, 17). The Pistons and Bobcats both have 23 back-to-backs this year, which from what I looked up, seems pretty high.

A few notes
Again, after no Saturday night home games last season, OKC gets three this year -Dec. 26 against Charlotte, Jan. 9 against Indiana and Jan. 16 against Miami … The Thunder have nine Friday night home games (10 last year) and 10 Sunday home games (seven last season) … The Thunder have a total of 22 weekend home games this year after just 17 last year … For a second straight year, OKC gets a New Year’s Eve home game, this year playing Utah to bring in the new year … Just one nationally televised game – Dec. 16 against Dallas at home … Two games on NBATV though (which will likely be blacked out in Oklahoma) – Nov. 15 at home against the Clippers and Dec. 2 at home against Philly … For the first time since professional basketball has been in Oklahoma, a season gets closed at the Ford Center with Memphis playing the Thunder at home April 14.

You could actually make a case that OKC has one of the most favorable schedules in the league. A frontloaded jaunt through playoff teams that can either build confidence or at least leave hope for easier days ahead. One of the fewest back-to-backs in the league and the longest road stretch being four games. And the schedule is very balanced with no big runs of road or home games. The whole thing is spread fairly evenly throughout. Besides the fact the OKC got the shaft in terms of TV games, Thunder fans should feel pretty good about their draw on the schedule.