Top 10 Must-See Matchups On The Thunder's Schedule
The NBA schedule is out and as usual, some games stand out a lot more than others.
For instance, let's be honest, nobody gets excited to watch the Suns or Magic; they're bad and boring. But when fans see Houston, Miami or either New York squad on the schedule, that's must-see TV.
Here's a list of the top 10 most intriguing games of the 2013-14 Thunder season.
10. vs. Bulls (Dec. 19)
Christmas comes early as Oklahoma City welcomes the Chicago Bulls to town for a showdown between two of the league's premier point guards – who also both happen to be coming back from serious injuries.
2011 MVP Derrick Rose should fully recovered from his ACL tear that caused him to miss the entire 2012-13 season, while Russell Westbrook is also expected to be 100 percent following the meniscus tear he suffered against Houston in the first round of the playoffs.
When both of these teams are fully healthy, they're two of the NBA's top dogs.
9. vs. Warriors (Nov. 29)
There may not have been a more exciting team in the NBA last season that the Golden State Warriors.
The 3-point shooting of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined with budding star Harrison Barnes and the always-tough David Lee made Golden State the NBA's biggest surprise last season. The Warriors snagged the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs and then upset Denver in the first round.
After adding wingman Andre Iguodala in the offseason, they'll be hard-pressed not to be even better this year. Forget the six seed; Golden State is undoubtedly gunning for home-court advantage this time around. With the West as packed as it is, Friday night home tilts like this will be crucial for the Thunder.
8. @ Clippers (April 9)
The Clippers have been on that fringe-elite level for the past couple of seasons, but that might change this year.
LA added Darren Collison, Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick, Byron Mullens, Reggie Bullock and perhaps most importantly, Doc Rivers. Rivers is a winner and a leader, and the general feel around the league is that he's the guy to push the Clippers over the top.
This Wednesday-night tilt is the Thunder's second-to-last game of the season, and there's a chance the No. 1 seed in the West will be on the line.
7. @ Knicks (Dec. 25)
They say there's nothing quite as charming as spending Christmas in New York City. For the Thunder, forget the charm – this is a business trip.
The 2:30 p.m. (EST) tip time will be the NBA's premier contest of the day, and the Thunder will look to put on a show in the "World's Most Famous Arena."
The Thunder and Knicks combined for two close contests last year. Oklahoma City escaped at Madison Square Garden, 95-94 on March 7. The Knicks got revenge in OKC, 125-120 on April 7 as Carmelo Anthony surged past Kevin Durant for the NBA's scoring title.
The NBA's Christmas present to all of us pits two of the premier teams in the league playing in the biggest city in the world in what will likely be the league's highest-rated TV game of the season. No big deal.
6. vs. Nets (Jan. 2)
The Thunder's first game of 2014 will come against the NBA's newest potential title contender.
Brooklyn already had plenty of talent (Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez) but they lacked leadership and fire last year. That's bound to change with the additions of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry along with new coach Jason Kidd.
There's no chance Brooklyn ends up a bad team, but what's their ceiling?
Their roster would probably win 70 games on NBA 2K14, but back in the real world there's valid questions regarding whether they can truly contend with Miami in the East.
Regardless, they'll be fun to watch.
5. vs. Spurs (April 3)
The season's final month is kicked off by another showdown with the Spurs.
Barring injury, San Antonio will undoubtedly once again be in the mix for the West's No. 1 seed. Their core may get older every season, but the Spurs won't have any problems keeping up.
San Antonio acquired sharpshooter Marco Belinelli to replace the departing Gary Neal, while Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter only promise to get better.
Like the April 9 meeting with the Clippers, this promises to be a crucial late-season showdown for OKC.
4. @ Grizzlies (Dec. 11)
When the Grizzlies eliminated the Thunder in the 2012-13 postseason, many people thought the Grizzlies had taken the next step into elite company. Those people apparently forgot that Russell Westbrook didn't play in a series in which every game was decided by six points or fewer.
This early-December matchup will be the Thunder's first opportunity to remind the Grizzlies of the Western Conference's pecking order, and you can imagine Westbrook will be pumped for this one.
If this game needs anything else added to the mix, Thunder nemesis Mike Miller passed up a deal with OKC in the offseason, opting to sign with Memphis instead.
This thing will be physical, rough and likely downright nasty.
3. @ Heat (Jan. 29)
If you need a breakdown of why this game is intriguing, you probably don't like basketball.
2. vs. Rockets (Dec. 29)
The Western Conference's newest rivalry is about to get taken to a new level.
First there was the James Harden trade. Then came the Patrick Beverly/Westbrook incident that ruined the Thunder's title hopes. Add to it the Rockets' year-and-a-half-long public insistence that they're a force to be reckoned with, when the results say differently.
And now there's Dwight Howard. If you're a Thunder fan, these guys are rivaling Miami on the annoying meter.
The Rockets managed to hold on to Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons, so it's not like they mortgaged the farm to sign Howard. In other words, there's no doubt they'll be competitive. How competitive? We don't know. They certainly won't contend at the top of the conference, but they might if they played in the East.
For every reason imaginable in the history of the universe, Oklahoma City is going to have this marked on the calendar as a must-win.
1. vs. Heat (Feb. 20)
Speaking of circle-the-calendar games…
The two-time champs come to Oklahoma City for another showdown between the planet's top two players.
Factor in the Thunder's unfinished business last season after the 2012 NBA Finals, and Oklahoma City will be eager to prove it's still the Heat's top competition.
The bottom line for OKC is: Miami's the only team left to beat. The Thunder has already proven it can take down San Antonio, Memphis, Los Angeles, etc. LeBron & Co. is the only squad left the Thunder can't figure out.
Oklahoma City has lost six straight to Miami. That has to change.