“We know that we can control our own destiny with this next basketball game,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on Thursday night. “That’s all we’re focused on.”
Following a massive victory over the Utah Jazz, the Oklahoma City Thunder are 39-42 on the season with just a single game remaining. The team is now back in OKC for two days off before what could be the biggest game of the season. The Thunder will host the Memphis Grizzlies to clinch the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference and the final spot in the play-in.
Oklahoma City controls its own destiny now, as the Dallas Mavericks continue to threaten the chance of the Thunder playing beyond Sunday. At this point, no matter what the Mavs do, the Thunder are still moving on with a win in their final contest. Since OKC owns the tiebreaker, Dallas has to go undefeated the rest of the way to even have a shot. If the Mavericks lose either of their last two games against the Chicago Bulls or San Antonio Spurs, the Thunder advance regardless.
This makes Friday’s game extremely interesting between the Mavs and Bulls. Chicago has already clinched a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in race and may not be playing its full roster. However, if Dallas loses the Thunder’s game on Sunday is no longer a must-win scenario. The Mavericks interestingly enough will head into this game without some of their key players due to rest.
As such, Thunder fans should keep an eye on that contest Friday night. If the Mavericks win that game, then Sunday is a huge game of consequence, in which the Thunder will have every chance to prove they’re ahead of schedule in the rebuild.
“We know the job that we need to do, and we’ll be ready for Memphis,” said Josh Giddey this week.
The Thunder take on Memphis at the exact same time that the Mavs play the Spurs on Sunday. It will be interesting to see what roster the Grizzlies roll out that afternoon given there’s a scenario in which they have nothing to play for in terms of seeding at that point.
If the Thunder do advance to the play-in, their likely opponents as of now would be the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans or Minnesota Timberwolves. In terms of highest probability, Oklahoma City would travel to Minnesota, as the Wolves are a full game back in the standings behind New Orleans and Los Angeles.
These past few weeks have proven to be tough for this young Thunder team, but it’s valuable experience. As the next few days unfold, it will be interesting to see how different scenarios play out, what lineups are put on the court in these various games and what Oklahoma City’s path to the play-in ultimately becomes.
There’s quite a few ways the remainder of the regular season could go, but it’s most likely at this point that the Oklahoma City Thunder finish tenth in the Western Conference with two road games between them and making the true playoffs.