OKC Thunder: Seven takeaways from first-half schedule of 2020-21 NBA season
The first half of the Thunder’s 2020-21 schedule was released Friday.
NBA schedules will consist of 72 games this season instead of the standard 82-game slate.
The Thunder will play each of its Western Conference opponents three times for a total of 42 games. The Thunder will play two games — one home and one away — against every team in the East for the other 30 games.
Only the first half of the schedule, from Dec. 22 to March 4, was announced Friday. The second half will be released closer to the March 5-10 All-Star break, though there won’t actually be an All-Star Game.
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Here are seven takeaways from the Thunder’s first 37 games, followed by the full schedule.
Starting where it ended
The Thunder will open the season at 7 p.m., Dec. 23 at the Rockets — the team that eliminated the Thunder in the first-round of the playoffs three months ago.
The matchup would be more appealing had Russell Westbrook not been traded to the Wizards on Wednesday. Given the uncertainty in Houston, it wouldn’t be a surprise if James Harden is no longer a Rocket by Dec. 23.
OKC will play at Charlotte on Dec. 26 before hosting Utah on Dec. 28 in what will be a strange home opener without fans.
It’s only right that the Jazz will be the first team to play in Oklahoma City. We all know what happened March 11, the last time the two teams tried to tip-off at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder opened last season against the Jazz, had the March 11 game against the Jazz postponed, restarted the season in the bubble against the Jazz, and now will face the Jazz in the 2020-21 home opener.
Steven Adams will be back in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Eve. The Thunder will host the Pelicans at 7 p.m.
The Thunder will visit Adams in New Orleans a week later.
The Thunder will face Chris Paul and the Suns on Jan. 27 in Phoenix.
Adams was traded to the Pelicans this offseason after seven seasons with the Thunder. Paul was flipped to Phoenix after one year in OKC.
Both of the Thunder’s games against Kevin Durant and the Nets have been scheduled: Jan. 10 in Brooklyn and Jan. 29 in Oklahoma City.
Waiting for the Wizards
There are eight teams the Thunder will have to wait to face until the second half of the season.
Among them are the Washington Wizards, now featuring Westbrook alongside Bradley Beal.
Washington traded John Wall and a 2023 first-round pick to Houston for Westbrook, who spent the first 11 years of his career in Oklahoma City.
There are five teams from the East and three teams from the West that don’t appear on the Thunder’s first-half schedule: Celtics, Grizzlies, Kings, Pacers, Pistons, Raptors, Warriors and Wizards.
Strength of schedule
The Thunder has the hardest first-half schedule in the NBA, according to ESPN’s metrics.
It’s easy to see how.
The Thunder has three games against the defending-champion Lakers, three against the Nuggets and two against the Clippers. That’s eight games against the top-three teams in the West last year, and six of those games are on the road.
The Thunder will also play both of its games against the Bucks and the Heat in the first half.
The Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Bucks and Heat account for a third of the Thunder’s first-half schedule.
The NBA is trying to reduce travel this season by scheduling more series between teams, similar to what baseball does.
The Thunder will play at the Clippers Jan. 22 and 24, vs. the Rockets Feb. 1 and 3, vs. the Timberwolves Feb. 5 and 6 and at the Lakers Feb. 8 and 10.
How it breaks down
The Thunder will play 18 home games and 19 away games in the first half.
OKC will have two five-game road trips — Jan. 2-10 at the Magic, Heat, Pelicans, Knicks and Nets, and Jan. 19-27 at the Nuggets, Clippers for two games, at the Trail Blazers and at the Suns.
The Thunder has a five-game home stand from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6 against the Nets for one game and Rockets and Timberwolves for two games.
The rebuilding Thunder, not surprisingly, was shut out of marquee slots like opening night, Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Thunder is scheduled for one national TV game — Jan. 17 against the 76ers on NBA TV. Thunder center Al Horford will match up against his former team.
No Thunder games are scheduled for ABC, ESPN or TNT.
OKC Thunder first-half schedule:
Dec. 23: at Rockets, 7 p.m.
Dec. 26: at Hornets, 6 p.m.
Dec. 28: vs. Jazz, 7 p.m.
Dec. 29: vs. Magic, 7 p.m.
Dec. 31: vs. Pelicans, 7 p.m.
Jan. 2: at Magic, 6 p.m.
Jan. 4: at Heat, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 6: at Pelicans, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8: at Knicks, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 10: at Nets, 5 p.m.
Jan. 12: vs. Spurs, 7 p.m.
Jan. 13: vs. Lakers, 7 p.m.
Jan. 15: vs. Bulls, 7 p.m.
Jan. 17: vs. 76ers, 6 p.m.
Jan. 19: at Nuggets, 8 p.m.
Jan. 22: at Clippers, 9 p.m.
Jan. 24: at Clippers, 3 p.m.
Jan. 25: at Trail Blazers, 9 p.m.
Jan. 27: at Suns, 8 p.m.
Jan. 29: vs. Nets, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1: vs. Rockets, 7 p.m.
Feb. 3: vs. Rockets, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5: vs. Timberwolves, 7 p.m.
Feb. 6: vs. Timberwolves, 7 p.m.
Feb. 8: at Lakers, 9 p.m.
Feb. 10: at Lakers, 9 p.m.
Feb. 12: at Nuggets, 8 p.m.
Feb. 14: vs. Bucks, 6 p.m.
Feb. 16: vs. Trail Blazers, 7 p.m.
Feb. 19: at Bucks, 7 p.m.
Feb. 21: at Cavaliers, 5 p.m.
Feb. 22: vs. Heat, 7 p.m.
Feb. 24: vs. Spurs, 7 p.m.
Feb. 26: vs. Hawks, 7 p.m.
Feb. 27: vs. Nuggets, 7 p.m.
March 3: at Mavericks, 7:30 p.m.
March 4: at Spurs, 7:30 p.m.