Thunder jockeying for playoff positioning

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

As the halfway point of the season has come and gone, the Oklahoma City Thunder are right in the thick of things in terms of playoff positioning.

Good news: They’re most likely going to be in.

Bad news: There are a handful of bad match ups for Oklahoma City in the first round.

Oklahoma City sits 25-18 after 43 games and seventh in the West. If the season ended today, they’d take on the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Oklahoma City hasn’t seen a first round exit since Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers rolled through town in 2010. However, the Spurs may be the best match up for the Thunder. We say that now, but we haven’t seen the two teams play.

Houston provides a weird and uneasy match up for the Thunder. James Harden and Russell Westbrook going toe-to-toe has the makings of a great showdown, but if we examine the way the entire team plays against Houston, the bench disappears and it turns into an all-Russ or not battle. To win those series, you need a team.

The Clippers are the fourth spot as of now, and have a bit of a hold on it, up by two on the Jazz. If Oklahoma City was to go on some sort of winning streak, get up to the fifth spot, the Clippers provide a little bit of comfort that could be disguised as a sweep. The way Oklahoma City and L.A. have played each other this year is anything but normal. Oklahoma City, dominating the Clips at home and then getting dominated on Monday night, albeit short handed, both teams size up well with one another.

San Antonio and Kawhi Leonard provide an interesting match up that Oklahoma City hasn’t seen this season. And they won’t for a couple more weeks.

On the backside, the Thunder would have to do a lot to fall out of the playoff talk. They’re currently seven games ahead of the Denver Nuggets and own the tie breaker. If we’re talking magic numbers, theirs to clinch a playoff spot is 31 (out of 39).

Here’s how Oklahoma City compares to potential playoff opponents:

Thunder Spurs Rockets Clippers
Record 25-18 31-9 32-11 29-14
Games Remaining 39 42 39 39
vs. +500 17 20 15 18
vs. West 27 29 24 23

Oklahoma City is 2-2 vs. the Clippers, 0-0 vs. the Spurs, and 1-2 vs. the Rockets this season. While, Oklahoma City has the easiest record, they only have 20 home games remaining. That’ll come big in February for the Thunder. While January saw only three home games, the month of February will see nine home games and only two road games.  That’s when Oklahoma City has to make their move. The Thunder will play the Cavs, Warriors, and Jazz all at home in February.

While we’re only halfway home, tons of season to go, but it’s a good idea to see where Oklahoma City stacks up against their foes.

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