Well, OKC Thunder Nation, if you told back on August 30, 2022, when it was announced second-overall pick Chet Holmgren would miss the duration of the 2022-23 campaign; that come April with four games remaining on the schedule, the Thunder would control their own destiny to make it into the play-in tournament for the first-time in franchise history, I would have called you crazy.
Guess what? This is not a belated April Fool’s joke, that is exactly where the OKC Thunder sits on April 2, 2023, with the Phoenix Suns in town this evening. Let’s dive into how important each of the Thunder’s remaining games are:
The OKC Thunder have four games remaining and control their destiny to get into the play-in, let’s rank OKC’s final four games in order of importance.
Number 4: @ Golden State, Tuesday April 4, 2023
I put this game fourth because the Warriors are also playing for seeding, making this game vital to both squads and the young Thunder will be on the road against the defending champion Warriors. I think GSW will win this game easily. The Thunder should even consider resting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in this game.
Number 3: Vs. Memphis, Sunday April 9, 2023
This game is third because this is the last game of the year and it is one week away. Perhaps, the Thunder will already know their fate by then. However, this game could also be for everything and their entire season could come down to winning this game, if the latter becomes true this will undoubtedly be the most important game remaining for the youngest team in the association.
Number 2: Vs. Phoenix, Sunday April 2, 2023
Because the Thunder holds the tie-breaker over the Dallas Mavericks and the Mavs lost on the road to the Miami Heat last night, this game could be the biggest game the Thunder will play all year, if they win they will have a full two game lead on Dallas because of the tie-breaker. It cannot be stressed enough what a monumental win this would be for the Thunder, if the goal is to make the play-in this contest should be treated like a playoff game with a tighter rotation and no minutes for slumping players, such as Aleksej Pokusevski and maybe Tre Mann.
Number 1: @ Utah, Thursday April 6, 2023
This game is vital for many different reasons, among the OKC Thunder’s remaining contests this one is the most important game to win. The Jazz is not eliminated from play-in contention just yet. However, if the Thunder beat the Jazz on Thursday, it will give them the season series win over Utah, awarding the Thunder the tie-breaker and potentially, at least a full game lead. If they lose this contest, depending on what happens between now and Thursday it could knock the Thunder out of the play-in altogether.
At the end of the day, the young Thunder controls their own destiny and OKC must use all of the development they have been curating all season to close the deal. The play-in and perhaps the playoffs are within reach, arguably a year earlier than expected; the fans can see the glass ceiling and are ready for Oklahoma City to breakthrough, given SGA’s recent Instagram post with a limerick as the caption the Thunder’s All-Star guard thinks the squad is ready too.
Sam Presti stated during a presser since the rebuild began that when the Thunder return to the playoffs, the franchise does not want it to be an appearance, but rather an arrival. If the team makes it this season, with Chet set to return next year, all indications are they should be back in the playoff mix once again in 2024.
If they do not make it in this year, the future is still bright, but it would feel like a letdown because the team got so close. The Thunder control their fate and their April slate begins today. As a former Thunder guard would say, “why not” go ahead and arrive this season?