A Closer Look at the 2010-11 Regular Season Schedule

Tuesday was like Christmas in August for NBA fans, and if you’re a Thunder fan it was an especially sweet day.

After playing just two regular season games on national television last season, the national networks will broadcast 15 Thunder games this season. Such are the benefits of a 27-game improvement and a team lauded for, well, it’s team-first approach.

Because the Thunder believes that no player is greater than the team, they will also tell you that no game is bigger than another, something we heard on a daily basis throughout the 2009-10 season. Every game is important; you play every game to win.

Even so, there’s a dozen or so ways of breaking down the schedule, which begins with Opening Night, a nationally televised game against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 27 in Oklahoma City and concludes with a home date against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 13.

Here are a few games and trends worth mentioning:

Ten of the first 18 games will come against teams that made the playoffs last season, including a pair of games against Boston and two apiece against division foes Portland and Utah. The first month of the schedule also features two games against the Houston Rockets, which is expected to have Yao Ming back in action.

The Thunder will enjoy an early four-games in eight-nights home stand in early November against Boston, Philadelphia, Portland and San Antonio. It will host a pair of four-game home stands each spread over eight days in December that’s broken up with a back-to-back set at Charlotte and New York. After the New Year’s Eve game against Atlanta, the Thunder will play consecutive games at the home, just three more times before its longest home stand of the season in late March, when it hosts six games in 12 nights.

A look back at last season’s schedule shows that the Thunder’s longest stretch at home was a five-games in 11-days stay from late November to early December. It also had a four-games in eight-days home stand and two four-games in seven-days home stands.

The heavy portion of the travel schedule doesn’t really start until January, when the Thunder kicks off the New Year with a three-game road trip over six days (San Antonio, Memphis, Dallas). The Thunder will play 26 road games in the new calendar year: eight in January, six in February, seven in March and five in April.

It’s biggest cluster of road games come at the start of March, when six of its first nine will be on the road against Atlanta, back-to-backs in Memphis and Philadelphia and a three-game string in Cleveland, Washington and Miami.

The Thunder’s longest road trip is a four-game west coast swing that spans eight days from the end of March into April against Phoenix, Portland, L.A. Clippers and Denver.

The Thunder will play 15 back-to-back sets this season, two fewer than last season.

Oct. 27 vs. Chicago – The Bulls have a new head coach in Tom Thibodeau, a new power forward in Carlos Boozer and nearly an entirely different supporting cast with more offseason acquisitions in Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson. And you can’t forget about point guard Derrick Rose.

Oct. 31 vs. Utah – The Thunder just missed sweeping the Jazz last season; always fun when Jerry Sloan’s team comes to town.

Nov. 4 at Portland – The Thunder’s first of two trips to Rip City. The Blazers re-signed center Marcus Camby and still has veteran guard Andre Miller in the backcourt with Brandon Roy.

Nov. 7 vs. Boston – The only trip to Oklahoma City for the defending Eastern Conference champs, which added Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal to a frontcourt that will be without Kendrick Perkins for the first part of the regular season.

Nov. 24 vs. Dallas – Nothing like a little pre-Thanksgiving matchup against two teams separated by a three-hour trip down Interstate 35. The Mavs will come here a deeper team than last season with the acquisition of center Tyson Chandler. Dallas also signed center Brendan Haywood and forward Dirk Nowitzki to extensions.

Dec. 25 vs. Denver – In terms of national exposure, it doesn’t get much bigger than a Christmas night game against a division foe.

Dec. 31 vs. Atlanta – Yes, New Year’s Eve games in Oklahoma City are starting to become a tradition. This is the third straight season the Thunder will host a game on the final night of the year, and it’ll get a Hawks team it defeated twice last season.

Jan. 13 vs. Orlando – Other than losing Matt Barnes to the Lakers and signing Chris Duhon , there was not a lot of offseason movement for the Magic. Center Dwight Howard is coming off a season in which he earned defensive player of the year honors.

Jan. 17 at L.A. Lakers – While it’ll be nearly nine months after the fact, expect the Thunder’s playoff series against L.A. to generate some type of discussion in the media.

Jan. 28 vs. Washington – The Wizards are sure to attract a crowd in visiting arenas this season if only for the chance to catch No. 1 overall pick John Wall in action.

Jan. 30 vs. Miami – Does this one really need an explanation?

Feb. 22 vs. L.A. Clippers – No disputing the talent on the Clippers roster, but whether it translates to the court remains to be seen. Oh, and this is expected to be Blake Griffin’s first pro game back home.

Feb. 27 vs. Lakers – Only time to catch the two-time defending champs play in Oklahoma City.

March 16 at Miami – The Thunder’s second and final meeting against the new-look Heat wraps up a three-game road trip.

April 13 vs. Milwaukee – The Thunder will close the regular season against a resurgent Bucks team that made the playoffs last spring. A healthy Andrew Bogut, coupled with point guard Brandon Jennings, should make for a fun time.

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