Ranking the top-5 OKC Thunder Christmas Day Games

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook #0 (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook #0 (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images) /

It’s been a minute since the OKC Thunder participated in the spectacle that is Christmas Day in the NBA. After nearly a decade of being featured on one of the league’s most marquee days, the Thunder began their rebuild and have been absent from the X-Mas day schedule. Perhaps, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continuing to ascend, along with Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and their number-two overall pick Chet Holmgren it will not be too much longer before OKC is back on the NBA’s biggest stage.

Ranking the top five Christmas Day games in OKC Thunder history

Until then, let’s take a deep dive down memory lane and look back on the five best Christmas Day games the Thunder has played. Because the Thunder are in one of the league’s smallest markets, they have been very fortunate to play so many games on Christmas in a short period of time.

For reference, the Thunder have played nine Christmas Day contests since relocating to Oklahoma City in 2008. Whereas the Memphis Grizzlies who have been a franchise for nearly 30 years will be playing their first game ever on Christmas this year.

It should not be taken lightly how special it is to play on Christmas and what kind of players you need in order to get the nod from the league’s schedule makers. Moreover, the Thunder are 6-3 on X-Mas with their last win coming in 2017 versus the Rockets inside the then-Chesapeake Energy Arena 107-113. In their most recent Holiday appearance, those same Rockets defeated Oklahoma City inside the Toyota Center 109-113 in 2018.

Let’s get into the festive walk down memory lane by going back to the beginning.

No. 5 Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder 

The Thunder’s first game on Christmas was at home inside the Peake. It was a glorious time, the NBA was in town less than three years, and the Thunder had already earned a spot on a momentous day. The young Thunder were eager to impress, especially Kevin Durant.

During his first Christmas performance with the Thunder, Durant dazzled scoring 44 points en route to helping the Thunder secure the 106-114 victory over their division rival the Nuggets.

Heading into Christmas, the Thunder sat at 21-10, good for seventh in the association. The spot they would remain; for the duration of the 2010-11 campaign. It was this season the Thunder won their first of multiple division championships. Nobody remembers OKC’s record leading into the X-Mas match with the Nuggets. What they do remember, is how they performed with the brightest lights shining, and behind KD’s 44-points he and the Thunder proved they belonged among the league’s elite.

No. 4 OKC Thunder @ Spurs

The Thunder does not have a lot of experience playing on the road on Christmas. In their limited road appearances, the OKC Thunder are 2-2 away from home on X-Mas. One of their wins came against the San Antonio Spurs on December 25, 2014.

Heading into this contest it was a toss-up of what was going to happen because KD was still out of the lineup due to a foot injury. Thunder legend Perry Jones III got the start in place of Durant and was very efficient, scoring 14 points on 71.4 percent shooting. Steven Adams also had a monster performance going up against an aging Tim Duncan. Adams had a double-double, scoring 16 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. Serge Ibaka added another 21 points, and Russ did it all contributing 34 points on 50 percent shooting, 11 assists, and five steals.

It was a full team effort to make up for KD’s absence, they pulled it off securing the 114-106 road win.

No. 3 Timberwolves @ Thunder

Remember earlier when how fortunate I mentioned the Thunder were to already have such a footprint on Christmas? Well, this was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first Christmas Day game, at the time they had been a franchise for nearly 30 years.

This was the Thunder’s first Christmas without Kevin Durant on the roster, I will never forgive the NBA for not making KD return to the Peake for the occasion. Be that as it may, the league was kind enough to still feature Westbrook and his Thunder on the holiday.

The Thunder road the seesaw against the Wolves as the game featured 10 ties and 10 lead changes. In the end, the young Wolves simply could not contain the Stash Bros as Steven Adams went off for 22 points and Enes Kanter added 20 points as well. Westbrook led all scorers with 31 points, whereas Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for the Wolves with 26 points in his holiday debut.

No. 2 Rockets @ Thunder

Rematches, returns, and rivalries; in order to have the perfect Christmas day slate in the NBA there should always be at least one rematch from the previous season’s playoffs, a former player face their old team, and one of the league’s top rivalries at the time in action.

The Thunder and Rockets fit two of the above categories in this particular contest, which was perfect as it added to the holiday drama. In OKC’s first playoff series without Durant in 2017 the Rockets obliterated the Thunder 4-1. Although the Thunder have yet to win a playoff series without Durant on the Roster, their series against the Rockets was one of the least competitive.

Oklahoma City had revenge on its mind on Christmas Day, they avenged the previous season’s playoff woes. This game was gritty, chippy, and highly intense in all the best ways, there were nine lead changes and nine ties.

James Harden and Eric Gordon were effective scorings a combined 49 points. But, Westbrook was no longer alone, as Paul George added 24 points, Melo added another 20 and Russ led them all with 31. The game was so captivating the NBA sent the Thunder to Houston the following year for a rematch in their most recent Christmas Day game to date.

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder @ Knicks

Russell Westbrook mopping the floor inside Madison Square Garden in more ways than one is an image permanently ingrained in many OKC Thunder fans’ minds. From the Thunder’s perspective, the worst part of this game was their uniforms; this was the first and only Christmas where players donned short-sleeve-styled jerseys as opposed to the traditional sleeveless cut.

On this afternoon Westbrook secured the seventh triple-double of his still-young career with 14 points, 10 assists, and 13 rebounds. At this point in time, Westbrook became only the fifth player in NBA history to triple-double on Christmas and he joined LeBron James (2010) as the only other player to record a triple-double on Christmas since the 1970s. Nobody knew what Westbrook would later do regarding triple-doubles, Russ literally normalized a statistical achievement that was once viewed as out of the ordinary and difficult.

Moreover, this contest still holds as OKC Thunder’s largest Christmas Day margin of victory at 123-94. The 29-point loss is the most lopsided loss the Knicks have suffered on Christmas in the 3-point era and their second-worst loss on the holiday in franchise history. This win is OKC’s only 20-plus point win on Christmas.

What is your favorite Thunder game or moment from Christmas Day? Let us know in the comment section or on social media. From all of us at Thunderous Intentions to you, have a Merry Everything and a Happy New Year!

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