There’s still room for the Thunder to open the NBA Playoffs on Sunday, which would be a great thing for anyone wishing to attend the Oklahoma or Oklahoma State spring games Saturday and avoid missing Oklahoma City’s playoff opener.
In fact, it’s sure looks like Oklahoma City will play at 8:30 p.m. Saturday or Sunday.
The NBA just released the Eastern Conference openers schedule and national television/radio plans for Eastern Conference openers:
Indiana at Chicago, 11 a.m., ESPN
Philadelphia at Miami, 2:30 p.m., ABC
Atlanta at Orlando, 6 p.m., ESPN
New York at Boston, 6 p.m. Sunday, TNT
The Western Conference schedule is expected to be finalized by 11 p.m. Wednesday CDT, after the Dallas, the Thunder, New Orleans and Memphis break their ties. If the Thunder wins and Dallas loses, the Thunder get the No. 3 seed and would face Portland in the first round. If Dallas wins , the Thunder is finishes fourth and opens against Denver.
Although the Sunday time slots could shift a bit, the Eastern Conference scheduling leaves these as the likely available time slots (ranked as in order of importance to the NBA and its TV partners):
– early afternoon Sunday
– mid-afternoon Sunday
– 8:30 p.m. Sunday
– 8:30 p.m. Saturday (Networks blow off Saturday night programing, figuring people have more important things to do that watch TV).
And here’s who still needs to be slotted (ranked in order of attraction to the NBA and its TV partners):
– Los Angeles vs. New Orleans or Memphis: The Lakers are the two-time defending champs, the league’s marquee attraction, and therefore will be slotted into the best slot.
– Dallas vs. Denver or Portland: OKC vs. Denver-Portland could have easily gone here. The Thunder are hot, hot, hot. But I went with Dallas because it has way more TV sets.
– Thunder vs. Denver or Portland: See above.
– San Antonio vs. New Orleans or Memphis: The Spurs are the No. 1 seeds and will probably end up winning the whole thing, but listening to ESPN talking heads argue about who they’d rather watch (Thunder or Spurs) reminded me of the Spurs’ relative low entertainment value. And a matchup with the Hornets or Grizzlies does nothing to lift their first-round Q-rating.
So, the best guess here is that it gets slotted like this:
– San Antonio vs. New Orleans or Memphis, 8:30 p.m. Saturday
– Dallas vs. Denver or Portland, early afternoon, Sunday
– Los Angeles vs. New Orleans or Memphis, mid-afternoon, Sunday
– Oklahoma City vs. Denver or Portland, 8:30 p.m. Sunday
As Berry Tramel put it, geography (Central Time Zone) lands the Thunder in the late slot. Kevin Durant (rising star) lands OKC on Sunday over Saturday.
An aside: Last week the March of Dimes announced that Thunder coach Scott Brooks was their 2011 Headliner of the Year and would be honored Monday, April 18, at a banquet. But if the Thunder opens the playoffs Saturday it would likely play Game 2 Monday, meaning the Headliner banquet would have to go on without its headliner. Maybe they know something the rest of us are waiting until late tonight to hear.