National Basketball Association Christmas games,Cleveland Cavaliers,Golden State Warriors,Russell Westbrook,Double (bask

The Thunder Are At The Kids’ Table This Christmas

December 23, 2016
in Kids

Level down. Joe Murphy / NBAE via Getty Images The NBA Christmas Day games are one of the league’s most visible showcases. Rivalries are deepened, as with the Clippers-Warriors matchups in 2013 and 2014, or rejoined, as with the centerpiece of this year’s slate, a finals rematch between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the last seven years, the Oklahoma City Thunder have enjoyed prime placement on the Christmas marquee, playing against some of the best teams in the league. But this season, after former MVP Kevin Durant left town over the summer, the Thunder’s star power has diminished enough to warrant a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, currently 9-19 and one of the worst teams in the league. We can use FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings to see just how far the Wolves fall below the Thunder’s standards. Here are Oklahoma City’s Christmas Day opponents beginning in 2010: DATE HOME TEAM AWAY TEAM THUNDER ELO OPPONENT ELO 12/25/2016 Thunder Timberwolves 1596 1426 12/25/2015 Thunder Bulls 1650 1524 12/25/2014 Spurs Thunder 1559 1671 12/25/2013 Knicks Thunder 1713 1451 12/25/2012 Heat Thunder 1699 1661 12/25/2011 Thunder Magic 1620 1583 12/25/2010 Thunder Nuggets 1570 1595 You might notice that in 2013 the Thunder got stuck playing the New York Knicks, TV’s worst recurring Christmas Day special. Except 2013 was the rare occasion when the Knicks looked like a legitimate NBA team coming into the season. Their preseason Elo rating was 1579, 128 points higher than their rating on Christmas Day, or the difference between a top-10 team and a bottom-5 one. So the Thunder weren’t supposed to have a dog of a game, they just ended up with one because the Knicks fell off the wagon. That wasn’t the case for this season’s Timberwolves. Minnesota came into the season with a rating of 1434, and has since fallen to 1426. The idea with the Wolves was that they have one of the brightest talents in the league, Karl-Anthony Towns, and a roster packed with young, exciting players liable to throw a 30-foot alley-oop or dunk on your head. They were supposed to be among the baby-faced upstarts in the league this season, and they might yet be if they ever figure out how...

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