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Thunder: Analyzing OKC's schedule for NBA restart

The Thunder’s schedule for the NBA season restart was released Friday night

All 22 teams invited back will play eight “seeding games,” which count as regular season games, before the playoffs begin. 

The regular season will resume July 30 at Disney World. 

Now it’s time to dig in. 

How much does the restart mirror OKC’s original schedule?

There were reports that a team’s schedule at Disney World would closely match what it would have faced had the regular season proceeded as usual. In other words, similar opponents and a similar strength of schedule. 

That’s the case for the Thunder. 

If you check the Thunder’s original schedule, its next eight unplayed games — only including matchups against the 21 other Disney-bound teams — were against the Jazz, Wizards, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Heat, Nuggets (again), Suns and Clippers. 

The Thunder will play all seven of those teams in Orlando. Instead of facing the Nuggets twice, a game against the Lakers was added. 

Where does the Thunder’s strength of schedule rank?

The Thunder has the ninth-toughest schedule among the 22 teams, based on cumulative opponent winning percentage. 

Oklahoma City’s eight opponents combined to go 300-215 (.583) in the regular season. 

Toronto has the toughest schedule by opponent winning percentage (.638). New Orleans (.495) has the easiest. Zion Williamson and the Pelicans had the softest remaining schedule in the West before the season was suspended. 

The Thunder will play three teams with losing records: the Grizzlies, Wizards and Suns. Those games will be played consecutively from Aug. 7 to 10. 

Every team will play one back-to-back at Disney World. The Thunder drew the easiest possible back-to-back, against the Wizards and Suns on Aug. 9 and 10. Washington and Phoenix are the two worst teams by record that were invited back for the restart. 

Most intriguing game

The sports world crashed seconds before the Thunder-Jazz game on March 11 when Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Almost 150 days later, it only makes sense for the Thunder to play the Jazz in its first game back at 2:30 p.m., Aug. 1. 

It will be Game 2 for the Jazz, which opens play July 30 against the Pelicans. 

The Jazz and Thunder, currently fourth and fifth in the Western Conference standings, are separated by just one game. 

The Thunder would likely welcome a first-round matchup against the Jazz. Utah lost sharpshooting forward Bojan Bogdanovic to season-ending wrist surgery during the stoppage. 

Most important game

The last one, Aug. 14 against the Clippers. 

Seeding might not be decided until the very end, and every middle-of-the-pack team in the West will desperately be trying to avoid the No. 7 seed, which will likely draw the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

The Thunder (40-24) could realistically finish anywhere from third to seventh in the West, but it’s closer to seventh than third. 

There’s a chance the Clippers will have the No. 2 seed wrapped up by Aug. 14. If so, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George might rest. 

If not, the Thunder is in for a treacherous finale. 

Looking back 

The Thunder is 6-10 against the teams it will face at Disney World. 

Three of those losses were against the Lakers. Two were against the Clippers. 

The Thunder split its two games against the Jazz, Nuggets and Grizzlies. 

Oklahoma City went 2-0 against Phoenix. 

The Thunder will play two teams from the East: Washington and Miami. 

The Wizards beat the Thunder Oct. 25 in Oklahoma City. It was the second game of the season, and a very strange result. The Wizards, the worst defensive team in the NBA by net rating, held the Thunder to a season-low 85 points. 

The Heat topped the Thunder 115-108 on Jan. 17 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. 

What are the odds?

Here are the Thunder’s seeding chances after the eight games are played, according to ESPN’s real plus-minus projections. 

No. 2: 0.7%

No. 3: 10.2%

No. 4: 15%

No. 5: 24.7%

No. 6: 33.8%

No. 7: 15.6%

The Thunder can’t mathematically finish first or eighth in the West. 

The Thunder’s most likely first-round matchup, according to ESPN’s model, is to play the No. 3 seed Nuggets. 

The Thunder has 80-1 odds to win the NBA title, according to BetOnline. The Lakers are the favorite at 9-4, followed by the Bucks at 3-1 and Clippers at 7-2. 

The Thunder has 50-1 odds to win the West. 

Early birds

The Thunder won’t often be showcased in prime time. 

Oklahoma City only has two games scheduled for 5 p.m. or later. The Grizzlies, Jazz, Nets, Spurs and Suns are in the same boat. 

Every other team plays at least three games at 5 p.m. or later. 

The Thunder will play twice on ESPN, against the Jazz and Lakers, but it won’t have a game broadcast on ABC or TNT. All games will air on Fox Sports Oklahoma. 

Thunder schedule

Aug. 1: Jazz, 2:30 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 3: Nuggets, 3 p.m., NBA TV

Aug. 5: Lakers, 5:30 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 7: Grizzlies, 3 p.m., NBA TV

Aug. 9: Wizards, 11:30 a.m. 

Aug. 10: Suns, 1:30 p.m. 

Aug. 12: Heat, 7 p.m. 

Aug. 14: Clippers, TBD

Key NBA dates* 

July 1: Rosters set for restart 

July 8: Thunder travels to Disney World 

July 9: Training camp begins

July 30: Season resumes 

Aug 17: Playoffs begin

Oct. 13: Last day of NBA Finals

Oct. 16: 2020 NBA Draft

*As reported by ESPN and The Athletic

Related Photos
Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) and Steven Adams (12) talk during NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Detroit Pistons at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.  [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) and Steven Adams (12) talk during NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Detroit Pistons at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d12af93950cd23935801e0810d3130ad.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) and Steven Adams (12) talk during NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Detroit Pistons at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) and Steven Adams (12) talk during NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Detroit Pistons at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) and Steven Adams (12) talk during NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Detroit Pistons at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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