The Oklahoma City Thunder have 25 more games on their schedule in the regular season. In the Western Conference, only four games separate the teams that are in fourth and ninth in the standings. There could be a lot of movement in the standings over the last two months.
Right now, the Thunder are in third place in the West. They are two games ahead of fourth-place Portland. Here are four games that will be important for the Thunder in the final months of the season:
February 26 at Nuggets
The Thunder have lost six out of their last seven games against the Denver Nuggets. The one Thunder win in that stretch was a one-point victory. This matchup is especially tough because the Nuggets are a league-best 25-4 at home this season. In addition, Denver is a Western Conference-leading 17-11 against teams that are currently .500 or better.
The Nuggets have more depth than any team in the Western Conference, including the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Nine Nuggets players have started at least ten games in 2019, while seven Nuggets players average at least ten points per game.
Nikola Jokic‘s ability to pass the ball creates matchup problems for Denver’s opponents. The Nuggets are a team that can win a high-scoring, fast-paced game, but they are also a team that is capable of winning an ugly, low-scoring game. It will be difficult for the Thunder to win this game, but the game will provide the Thunder with an important test.
March 11 at Jazz
The dynamic duo has responded well, as the Thunder have beaten the Jazz in both of their matchups this season. It will be important for the Thunder to continue their winning ways against the Jazz because they would be playing against the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today.
March 29 vs. Nuggets
Their final matchup with the Nuggets will probably feel like a playoff game. In fact, the Thunder and Nuggets could meet in the second round of the NBA playoffs. If the two teams stay in second and third place and both win their first-round series, then they would play against each other in the second round.
The regular season does not always serve as a good barometer for the postseason, but it feels as though the Thunder need to win one of their two remaining games against Denver. The Nuggets have owned the Thunder in recent years, and Oklahoma City cannot let their division rivals go into the postseason having won eight of the past nine regular season matchups between the two teams.
April 9 vs. Rockets
The Thunder recently had an amazing comeback win over the Houston Rockets. However, the Rockets will pose a tough matchup for anyone because they have James Harden, who is averaging over 36 points per game. No NBA player in the last 30 years has had that high a scoring average. It will be tough for the Thunder to contain Harden if they do not get defensive ace Andre Roberson back from injury. Roberson has not played in over a year, and he has had multiple setbacks in his rehabilitation from the injury to his patellar tendon.
There is a chance that the Thunder could play against the Rockets in the playoffs at some point, so the Thunder will need to get used to preparing for how to contain the prolific scorer.
Honorable mention: March 20 vs. Raptors
The Thunder begin a home-and-home series with the Toronto Raptors in Oklahoma City on March 20. The Thunder-Raptors games will be entertaining, but this night is important for another reason: Nick Collison‘s No. 4 will be retired by the Thunder before the game. His jersey will be the first one that is ever retired by the Thunder. The team kept the Seattle SuperSonics’ retired numbers, but Collison’s is the first one that will be retired in Oklahoma City. The pregame ceremony is going to bring back a lot of memories, as several former Thunder players (including Kevin Durant) will be in attendance. It will be a special night for Collison and the team.
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