Jazz (37-22, 17-11 road) vs. Thunder (34-25, 22-8 home)
TV: FSOK/NBA VR (Virtual Reality)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.2 (20th), Jazz – 107.3 (12th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.8 (8th), Jazz – 101.5 (3rd)
The Oklahoma City Thunder finally have a full roster. It was a long 6 days, but, whew!, we made it through. The Thunder signed free agent point guard Norris Cole to a contract this afternoon for the remainder of the season. Now this isn’t a game-changer by any means, but Cole is at least an NBA-level player. His biggest attributes are his playoff-level experience and the fact that he isn’t Semaj Christon. No disrespect to ‘Maj, but this “Christon as the back-up point guard” bit wasn’t working. Hell, he wasn’t even the point guard of the second team. Kanter was.
As the Thunder start their march towards the playoffs, a lot of the team’s focus will likely shift from player development to winning games. Christon is bound to see more time in the D(G?)-League. Domantas Sabonis experienced what a rookie playing time squeeze felt like when he only played 8 minutes in the Thunder’s last game against the front line loaded New Orleans. And Alex Abrines will likely be a “feel and go” candidate whose performance will dictate his playing time. When Victor Oladipo returns, I could see Doug McDermott taking some of Abrines’ minutes if he gets into a slump, as most rookie sharpshooters tend to do.
Season Series Summary
This is the third of four meetings between the Northwest Division rivals. The two teams have split their first two meetings, which were both played in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Jazz come into this game with a 37-22 record, having won 7 of their last 10 games. Finally healthy, the Jazz are at last showing the flashes that many people expected when this team was being built. The talent was always there, but the bodies were always on the floor. Even this season has seen Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, George Hill, and Rodney Hood all suffer lengthy injuries (10 games or more). As of right now, though, everyone on the roster is healthy and playing at a high level.
- Victor Oladipo (back) – Game-Time Decision
3 Big Things
1. Perimeter Defense
The Jazz have 5 rotation players shooting at least 36.5% from deep, with 3 of those players shooting over 40%. The Jazz have moved away from being a big man oriented team and have aligned their offensive schema more with that of the rest of the league. As a result, Derrick Favors’ numbers have suffered big time. The burly power forward who has averaged 16 and 8 the last two seasons, is averaging only 9.4 points and 6.1 rebounds this season. The Thunder will need to stay on the shooters and try to prevent the dribble penetration of George Hill and Gordon Hayward.
2. Battle of the Boards
The Thunder grab the third most available offensive boards at 27.3%, while the Jazz grab the fourth most available defensive boards at 78.9%. The winner of this battle will go a long way towards determining the victor of this game.
3. Floor spacing
For the Thunder to win this game, they are going to have to knock down some shots from deep. Utah is one of the best defensive teams in the league, and their strategy is the funnel everything towards the middle where Rudy Gobert takes residence. Abrines has done a nice job of stepping up in Oladipo’s absence, draining 8 three’s in his absence. McDermott has yet to hit a three in his 2 games in OKC, so tonight would be as good a night as ever for him to shake off this mini-slump. A little spacing will definitely open up the middle for Westbrook to do what he does best: impose his will from the paint.