The OKC Thunder go into the month of January with a 15-21 record and are struggling to stay in the Play-In race. The month of January for The Thunder will be challenging as 10 of the team’s 14 matchups go up against teams with winning records. But some of these matchups are more interesting than others, so here are the following month’s three most intriguing matches.
January 8 vs. Dallas Mavericks
On January 8th, the thunder welcomes Luka Doncic and his Mavericks to the Paycom Center for the first time this season. This star matchup will arguably feature the top two players in the 2018 draft class, Doncic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Luka Doncic was in tears by the end of 2022 and will try to bring that level of play into the new year. He recently had the first 60-point, 20-rebound triple-double in NBA history in a win over the Knicks.
Aside from the excellent game that was to be expected from Luka and Shai, these teams played a classic game at the end of October. The Thunder trailed Dallas 97-81 in the fourth quarter with about four minutes left. OKC rallied to level the game and send it into overtime with a three from Isaiah Joe. The Thunder would win 117-111 in overtime and win the first matchup of the season against the Mavs.
January 10 at the Miami Heat
This one needs to be watched for a reason other than just the matchup. OKC’s game in Miami will be their first nationally televised game since Game 7 against the Rockets in the Bubble in 2020. The Thunder was supposed to be featured on TNT against Orlando earlier this season, but Chet Holmgren’s injury left the matchup of the first two picks ruined, and the game was bent out of that slot.
Due to the circumstances, this will be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s first game in front of a national crowd since he became a star. SGA’s scintillating goal-scoring ability will come into its own against a Miami team that clinched a win outside of the NBA Finals last season.
Those two teams played a nail biter in mid-December that saw the Heat walk away with a two-point win. Tyler Herro won the game, but Thunder fans will likely remember the controversial no-calls that followed when time ran out.
This will also be the first opportunity to take to the national stage for some of Thunder’s other youngsters, such as Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams. More than anything, this reflects the shift in the national media’s perception of Thunder and its rebuilding.
January 20 with the Sacramento Kings
This game will be the Thunder’s first battle against the rejuvenated Kings this season. Behind head coach Mike Brown and some offseason recruits like Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk, Sacramento is playing its best basketball in over a decade.
However, their new identity as the Beam Team was the most interesting part of the Kings’ season. After each win, a beam of purple light shines into the Sacramento sky above the Golden 1 Center. OKC will try to stop the kings from igniting the beam that night.
There will be a duel between two of the league’s most exciting backcourt players on the pitch when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and De’Aaron Fox take the floor. These two also have very different playstyles.
SGA is known for his ability to play at his own pace and get what he wants anywhere on the floor. On the other hand, Fox is known for being one of the fastest players in the league and loves making turns.
The fight on the boards will also be worth watching as former Thunder rookie Domantas Sabonis is one of the NBA’s top rebounders for Sacramento.
There were a few games that just missed the cut. One of them was the surprise visit of the Indiana Pacers and Tyrese Haliburton to OKC. The other was the Thunder, who traveled to Brooklyn to take on former Thunder star Kevin Durant and the red-hot Nets.
Overall, The Thunder’s January calendar is consistently filled with exciting matchups. And the team’s performance over the month will likely decide whether OKC decides to pull the plug and tank again or compete for a place in the play-in tournament.