The 2015-2016 schedule is out and with more than two months left until the season opener, here’s a countdown of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s top 10 most intriguing games this season.
10. Rockets at Thunder, Jan. 29 – These two Western Conference rivals are always a must see when they match up against each another. The Thunder have one lone playoff series against the Rockets, but the drama and history between these teams always make for an exciting game. The Beverley-Westbrook matchup and the James Harden history alone make these games worthwhile.
9. Grizzles at Thunder, Nov. 16 – This is a rivalry that started ever since the second-round series in 2011. Each time these two teams play it’s a physical and verbal battle. Over the years, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have battled it out with Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams. Just when you thought this rivalry couldn’t get more interesting, the Grizzles added Matt Barnes this offseason. The same Matt Barnes who called Ibaka a “dirty player” several times this summer and said he wanted to fight Ibaka as well. He’ll have his first chance on Nov. 16.
8. Suns at Thunder, Dec. 31 – Eight years in Oklahoma City. Eight home games on New Year’s Eve. This will be the fourth time they face the Suns in those games. Last years’ New Year’s Eve game was an overtime thriller against the Suns, with Oklahoma City winning 137-134 despite Russell Westbrook’s first half ejection.
7. Pelicans at Thunder, Nov. 18 – One of the MVP favorites and NBA’s biggest and youngest superstars comes back to Chesapeake Energy Arena after hitting one of the most memorable buzzer-beaters of last season against the Thunder. This will also mark the return of Perkins, who was loved by the team and organization, so he should return to a much-deserved standing ovation.
6. Pistons at Thunder, Nov. 27 – Reggie Jackson returns to play against the team he desperately wanted to leave. He seemed to force his way out of town and it didn’t settle well with Thunder fans, and it’ll be interesting to see how the players react to his return, especially Westbrook. Expect a lot of boos during the player introductions and an eager Westbrook for this one.
5. Warriors at Thunder, Feb. 27 – Sadly, the reigning champions and reigning MVP only make one appearance in Oklahoma City this season. But as most NBA fans are hoping for, these two teams have a strong chance to meet again in the playoffs, which would be a high-scoring and entertaining series. The last time Kevin Durant faced the Warriors, he put up 30 points in the first half before re-injuring his foot. The Thunder feel if healthy that they match up well against the Warriors, and they’ll have the chance to prove that with a healthy Durant returning.
4. Thunder at Wizards, Nov. 10 – In case you haven’t heard, the Washington Wizards feel as if they have the best chance to land KD this upcoming free agency because D.C. is his hometown. Durant will be bombarded with free agency questions all season, but the most hype will come from the fans and press of the Wizards. This is the only game the Thunder play in D.C., and the last time these two teams played there it was an overtime thriller with Westbrook making the game-winning layup in overtime.
3. Cavaliers at Thunder, Feb. 21 – The last time the Cavaliers came to Oklahoma City, it was one of the few times the Thunder were completely healthy. However, LeBron James sat out with a sore knee, so hopefully both teams will be healthy for what could be a potential Finals preview. It’s LeBron vs. KD. Arguably the two best players in the NBA. It’s as simple as that.
2. Bulls at Thunder, Dec. 25 – For the first time since 2011, the Thunder will host a game on Christmas Day. Derrick Rose and Westbrook have only played against one another six times, with the last meeting coming in 2010. With Rose looking to get back to his former self, maybe this will be the showdown we’ve all been waiting for.
1. Spurs at Thunder, Oct. 28 – This will be Oklahoma City’s season opener against the new-look Spurs, who’ve acquired a new star in LaMarcus Aldridge. Durant returns and Billy Donovan makes his debut against Thunder coach against Gregg Popovich. Coming off a frustrating season due to injuries, this is arguably the franchise’s most important and highly anticipated season of them all, and I can’t think of a better game to start the year. The Thunder play 24 nationally televised games (ABC, ESPN, TNT), trailing only the Cavaliers (25) and Warriors (25). The Clippers also play 24, the Bulls play 23, the Spurs play 21 and the Lakers and Rockets each play 19.