Time: 5:30 PM CT
TV: TNT / FSOK
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
After 82 games of up-and-down OKC basketball, the postseason has finally arrived. The Thunder (48-34) will square-off with the visiting Utah Jazz (48-34) tonight in Game 1 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
The Thunder/Jazz series is being billed by many as the best match-up of the first round, an opinion supported by the identical records the teams finished the regular season with. Utah — winners of 17 of their final 21 games — comes in as perhaps the hottest squad in the league. The Thunder — led by its core four of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, and Carmelo Anthony — largely underachieved to this point. However, there’s enough offensive firepower on the OKC roster to feel optimistic, even against the league’s top defense.
Hype video courtesy of the Thunder:
Tip-off is at 5:30 PM CT and will be televised on TNT and Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder is a 3.5-point favorite according to Odds Shark.
Update: Corey Brewer (knee sprain) is active and will start. Alex Abrines (concussion) is also active and available.
- Corey Brewer: Active — Knee
- Alex Abrines: Active – Concussion
- Andre Roberson: Out – Knee
- Thabo Sefolosha: Out — Knee
Jazz: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
Numbers from 2017-18 regular season
|Team||EFG||FTA||TOV%||OREB||OPP EFG||OPP FTA||OPP TO%||OPP OREB%|
Click to Enlarge
Thunder O & D:
Jazz O & D:
OKC won season-series 3-1
Oct. 21: UTAH 96, OKC 87 [BOX SCORE]
Dec. 5: OKC 100, UTAH 94 [BOX SCORE]
Dec. 20: OKC 107, UTAH 79 [BOX SCORE]
Dec. 23: OKC 103, UTAH 89 [BOX SCORE]
Thunder Health. As of this writing, the status of both Corey Brewer (knee sprain) and Alex Abrines (concussion) remains up in the air. Their availability will be updated prior to tip-off, but Billy Donovan will need to get creative if he’s without one, or both, of his top two shooting guards (Dre not included). Expect a healthy dose of Terrance Ferguson and (perhaps) Josh Huestis if Brewer and/or Abrines can’t go. Paul George is also expected to help out on defense when it comes to guarding Donovan Mitchell — easing the burden on whoever ends up playing at SG tonight.
Some good news:
The New Jazz. As mentioned above, Utah comes in having won 17 of their last 21 games. When the teams last met on December 23, the Jazz were four-games under .500 at the end of the contest. They went 33-15 from that point forward, nearly stealing the 3-seed in the West. With two of OKC’s three regular season wins over Utah coming without Rudy Gobert in the lineup, it’s safe to assume OKC will be facing a different team than what they saw in the regular season. In fact, you can probably throw those games out when trying to determine how this series will go.
Playoff P. Paul George struggled after the All-Star break, averaging 20.6 PPG on 38.5 percent shooting — 32.4 percent from downtown. The 5-time All-Star shot better than 50 percent from the field just once in the final 23 games, a 40-point outing in the regular season finale vs Memphis.
George unveiled a postseason alter-ego yesterday while speaking to the media, referring to himself as “Playoff P” and teasing improved play on a bigger stage. If he looks anything like the guy who dropped 40 on 13-of-20 shooting in OKC’s last game versus the Grizzlies, the Thunder immediately becomes a much tougher out. He could easily be considered the biggest x-factor in the series.
The Bigs. OKC picked up two of its three wins vs Utah without Rudy Gobert in the lineup. The Defensive Player of the Year candidate totally changes the Jazz approach, averaging 13.5 points and 10.7 rebounds while anchoring a defense that allowed just 99.8 PPG to opposing offenses. His match-up with Steven Adams is perhaps the most important of the series. If Big Kiwi plays well enough to command Gobert’s full attention, life gets easier for everyone else on the Thunder roster.
Russ & The Rookie. The Thunder is led in scoring by the reigning MVP, Russell Westbrook. The Brodie just wrapped up his second consecutive season averaging a triple-double, pouring in 25.4 PPG in the process. The main scoring threat for Utah is 21-year-old Donovan Mitchell, a guy who put up 20.5 PPG and broke the rookie single-season record for three-pointers made.
The offenses will revolve around these two men and they’ll be the focal point of the defensive efforts. Westbrook gets the edge for obvious reasons, but Donovan could give the Jazz a monster boost if he can match (or surpass) Westbrook’s scoring production. They’re similar players in mindset/freakish athleticism, so it should be fun to watch.
Melo & Joe. With so much focus on Westbrook, Donovan, George, Gobert and Adams, it’s easy to forget how important Carmelo Anthony and Joe Ingles may end up being. Ingles is a sharpshooter that averaged 11.5 PPG on 44 percent shooting from downtown. Melo, for all his faults, averaged 16.2 PPG on 35.7 percent from deep. If one of these men wildly outperforms the other, his team will have a leg up tonight and in the series.