by Micah Hart
As everyone knows by now, the compressed NBA schedule will force every team to play three games in three nights at least one this season (42 times in total). With only 66 games to stake a claim to a playoff spot or seed, how teams perform during these killer slates could have a large impact on how their seasons turn out.
With that in mind, we’re going to keep track of each of the 42 three-plays to see which teams take advantage and which teams fall apart. Up next, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who played three straight from Jan 6-8.
It took six tries, but we’ve finally seen a team pull off the undefeated three-play. I actually wasn’t sure we’d see a team survive the gauntlet all season, but as @tasmelas pointed out on Twitter last night, so far teams are undefeated in the third games of the stretch. Go figure.
Game 1: Thunder 109, Rockets 94 – Seems to me a big leg-up in handling these stretches is getting off to a fast start in Game 1 so you can conserve some energy. OKC led this game by 17 at the break, and barely broke a sweat in getting the home win. 2 points (1 for win, 1 for +10 margin)
Game 2: Thunder 98, Rockets 95 – Playing the same opponent on consecutive nights (we’ve seen the Nuggets and Lakers do this already), the Thunder get a 17-point contribution from Nazr Mohammed (unlikely) and some clutch shooting down the stretch from Kevin Durant (quite likely) to hold off the Rockets on the road. The only downside was losing Eric Maynor to a knee injury in this game, most likely for the season. 4 points (3 for win, 1 for road)
Game 3: Thunder 108, Spurs 96 – Oklahoma City finishes in style with another impressive double-digit win, and shows why so many have them pegged as NBA Finals participants for this season. You may think this team is all Durant and Russell Westbrook, but the OKC bench had three players in double figures in this game, including 11 and four assists from rookie Reggie Jackson, who stepped in in place of the injured Maynor. 6 points (5 for win, 1 for +10 margin)
The Hawks reign was short-lived, as the Thunder finish one point shy of the max they could earn given their schedule, and assume the top spot with 12 total points.
Up next: The Minnesota Timberwolves get their Rubio on with three games in a row Jan. 8-10: at Washington, at Toronto, and home to Chicago.