Game 65 Pregame Primer: Thunder (40-24) vs. Jazz (41-23)
Daily Thunder’s game day coverage is sponsored by Anthem Brewing Company
7pm @ Chesapeake Energy Arena, ? Fox Sports Oklahoma
Follow along on Twitter with Daily Thunder and our beat reporter, Brandon Rahbar, during the game.
A “life comes at you fast” submission for today’s Memory Lane, which, though only 48 hours from its conception, has aged as a fine French wine might.1
Projected starting lineups:
|PG: Chris Paul||PG: Mike Conley|
|SG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||SG: Donovan Mitchell|
|SF: Lu Dort||SF: Royce O’Neale|
|PF: Danilo Gallinari||PF: Bojan Bogdanovic|
|C: Steven Adams||C: Rudy Gobert|
3 Big (Seeding) Things:
You may have heard that the Thunder will slide into that 4th spot in the Western Conference standings if they win against the Jazz tonight?
- Look at us.2Can we take a moment to appreciate that this Thunder team is jockeying for virtually the same seeding value as the last two star-charged squads were to close out their respective seasons? If I believed in karma, I would say last year’s Thunder squandering a miraculous placement in a historically weak half of the Western bracket would mean that yet another fortuitous standings break is not in the proverbial cards. But I believe in a God of rigid order and chance–Who may or may not be a Thunder fan–and insist that the odds are worth pursuing down to the wire. It’s much too early to declare this a must-win or anything for the 4 seed (unless the NBA’s coronavirus plan makes this a true “if the season ended today” scenario), but defeating the Jazz (and going up 2-1 for the season series) would mean a lot for the Thunder’s postseason prospects. The most settled accomplishment: they will have eliminated the possibility that Utah owns a head-to-head tiebreaker in the standings against Oklahoma City. That means at worst, other tiebreakers would come into play even if the Thunder lost in the final matchup against the Jazz in game 81.
- Other ripple effects. Eliminating one variable (that tiebreaker) among hundreds that could matter most down the stretch could be the difference between the Jazz punting the next-to-last game or not. Or, it could mean the Thunder punt the same game, either to target a preferred first round opponent caught up in the web of possibilities, or to rest up ahead of the playoffs with no stakes at all attached to the game–no small incentive for players that play heavy minutes (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), are ancient (Chris Paul), are regular injury risks (Danilo Gallinari) or whose play obviously improves after rest (Steven Adams).
- Thunder go up, pick comes down. If the Thunder don’t drop/remain below at least three of the Nuggets, Jazz, Rockets, and Mavericks, it’s hard to imagine they will finish worse than 10th in the overall draft standings, meaning they will have to convey their top-20 protected pick to the Sixers this summer. If the Nuggets are somehow the victim of OKC’s standings boon (unlikely), the Denver pick owed would get sweetened and serve as a small consolation for the other lost pick.