Oklahoma City Thunder Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for February

Shehan Peiris@@shehan_peiris_Correspondent IIIFebruary 4, 2015

Oklahoma City Thunder Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for February

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    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    The pressure keeps mounting for the Oklahoma City Thunder after a disappointing January. A tough schedule didn’t do them any favors, but a .500 record for the month meant they lost ground in the battle for the West’s final playoff spot. The Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans capitalized on OKC’s struggles and look like legitimate threats to keep the Thunder out of the postseason.

    What must truly concern OKC fans is not just the losses, but how the team is playing. The lack of focus has been infuriating, and the team just hasn’t been able to find a rhythm. This team was dominated in Sacramento, managed to eke out unconvincing home victories against the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves and capped off the month with a loss to the lowly New York Knickerbockers.

    February is a light month thanks to the longer All-Star break, but it could end up playing an enormous role in playoff seeding.

    OKC completes its four-game season series against the Pelicans (currently losing 0-2) and also has its penultimate game against the Suns (currently winning 2-0). Not only is it beneficial for the Thunder’s competitors to lose games, but those head-to-head matchups could end up swinging a playoff spot if it comes down to tiebreakers.

    OKC’s February schedule is analyzed in this slideshow, broken into weekly (i.e., Sunday to Saturday) segments. Each week will get its own slide complete with the schedule, a breakdown of the most interesting matchups and a prediction of OKC’s record. The last slide will contain a prediction for the entire month’s record.

Week 1

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    Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images

    Schedule: vs. Orlando Magic (Feb. 2, W 104-97); at New Orleans Pelicans (Feb. 4); vs. New Orleans Pelicans (Feb. 6)

    Game of the Week: at New Orleans

    The Thunder have already started the month well with a Kevin Durant-less win over the Magic, but the week ends with a crucial home-and-home against a Pelicans squad that has had OKC’s number so far this season.

    To be fair, one of those prior losses came without Durant while the other was the reigning MVP’s first game of the season, so it’s hardly indicative of a poor matchup. Anthony Davis, however, has definitely proven to be too tough to handle in the previous games, where he has thoroughly outplayed Serge Ibaka.

    Here are their averages from their two encounters this season:

    Anthony Davis31.564.9%
    Serge Ibaka6.026.3%

    Davis has been having his way with plenty of teams this season, but the Thunder must figure out how to prevent him from dominating these games.

    Two wins may be too much to ask, however, from a team that will likely be without Durant for at least the first Pelicans game, according to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman.

    Weekly Record Prediction: 2-1 (W, L, W)

Week 2

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Schedule: vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Feb. 8); at Denver Nuggets (Feb. 9); vs. Memphis Grizzlies (Feb. 11); All-Star Weekend (Feb. 13 – Feb. 15)

    Game of the Week: vs. Los Angeles

    Week 2 brings two challenging home games against Western contenders. For all the negative talk surrounding the Clippers, they’re still an impressive 33-16 and boast the second-best point differential in the league. The game is certainly a must-watch affair with plenty of star power and the potential for an amazing highlight reel.

    Memphis is also a stiff test for the Thunder, as both teams are familiar foes integrating new faces (Jeff Green and Dion Waiters, respectively). The Grizzlies will be a good litmus test for the OKC offense, as Memphis boasts a top-10 defense and a number of pesky defenders to harass Durant and Russell Westbrook (e.g. Green, Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Courtney Lee).

    If OKC can win one of those games, that’ll be an acceptable outcome for the week. But the team can’t overlook a tough matchup in the high altitude of Denver that will be the Thunder’s third in four nights.

    Weekly Record Prediction: 1-2 (W, L, L)

Week 3

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Schedule: NBA Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET on Feb. 19); vs. Dallas Mavericks (Feb. 19); at Charlotte Hornets (Feb. 21)

    Game of the Week: vs. Dallas

    After a lengthy All-Star break, the Thunder resume their season with another game against a Western Conference contender. Westbrook and Durant will both be participating in the All-Star festivities, but the downtime will be a godsend—especially for Durant, who has been dealing with a multitude of nagging injuries.

    The Dallas game should be an extremely entertaining national broadcast featuring some of the league’s premier offensive talents and two point guards who rise to the occasion as nightly triple-double threats. The Mavs have struggled against the good Western teams, going a combined 5-12 against the top 10 in the conference. That trend will continue in Week 3, as a rested Thunder team at home will be too much to handle for an average defensive ball club.

    Next on the schedule is a resurgent Charlotte squad that will be without its leader, Kemba Walker. Even though the Hornets have rediscovered their defensive identity (holding opponents to 86.7 points per game over their last 10), the loss of Walker—the team’s offensive fulcrum—should be too much to overcome.

    Weekly Record Prediction: 2-0 (W, W)

Week 4

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Schedule: vs. Denver Nuggets (Feb. 22); vs. Indiana Pacers (Feb. 24); at Phoenix Suns (Feb. 26); at Portland Trail Blazers (Feb. 27)

    Game of the Week: at Phoenix

    The Thunder close February with a brutal stretch of five games in seven nights—three of which are on the road. Fortunately, the earlier segment of that scheduling nightmare pits OKC against weaker teams in Charlotte (last week), Denver and Indiana.

    OKC has to take care of business in those three games because the end of February presents a difficult road back-to-back against Phoenix and Portland. Those last two games should be thoroughly entertaining thanks to the high-octane offenses and an abundance of athleticism.

    A 3-1 week would be a very successful end to the month, especially if OKC can hand the Suns another loss and win the season series. Portland will be a much tougher out thanks to their superstar duo of Damian Lillard and Lamarcus Aldridge. The Blazers have been an elite team on both sides of the ball this year and have dominated at home (21-5 as of publication). The Thunder can hang with anyone, but going into a hostile environment for the third game in four nights will likely be an unsuccessful venture.

    Weekly Record Prediction: 3-1 (W, W, W, L)

The Month of February

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    In addition to the on-court soap opera that is the NBA season, February could possibly bring a shakeup to the playoff race.

    The trade deadline is on February 19, and OKC may be one of the teams that makes a move. Whether it’s a big name like Brook Lopez, a role player like Wilson Chandler or a trade to net assets in exchange for Reggie Jackson, there is a decent chance that the Thunder pull the trigger on another trade to address the lack of shooting or perimeter defense on the roster.

    Even if there are no major moves on deadline day, OKC faces plenty of challenges in a month where it plays seven games against potential Western Conference playoff teams. Eight wins would be a strong showing for the Thunder, and it would possibly get them a little closer to the eighth seed and set the stage for a fascinating last two months as the Suns, Pelicans and Thunder battle for a postseason berth.

    If, by some miracle, these predictions turn out to be accurate, OKC would need 17 wins from their last 22 games to end the season at 48 wins. That seems unlikely at this point, but it’s possible that 46 wins would be enough for the eighth seed, and a 15-7 finish is more reasonable.

    Predicted February Record: 8-4

    Total Season Record (If Predictions Are Accurate): 31-28 (22 Games Remaining)

    Note: All records and statistics are accurate as of Feb. 4 and obtained from ESPN.com.