Now that the 2017-18 regular season has officially come to an end, it’s time to look ahead toward the postseason. After 82 games of what could reasonably be considered stressful Thunder basketball, Oklahoma City finds itself as the 4-seed and will enjoy home court advantage against the 5-seed Jazz in the first round. Just like we drew it up.
With Game 1 set for Sunday evening, let’s dig into the series a bit and begin the process of overanalyzing every detail of what should be a fantastic match-up between the Northwest Division rivals.
Games also televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma
Regular Season Results
The Thunder performed well against the Jazz this season, taking the season-series by a tally of 3-1.
Oct. 21: Jazz 96, Thunder 87 [BOX SCORE]
Utah defeated the Thunder by 9 in just the second game of the season. It was an ugly affair.
Dec. 5: Thunder 100, Jazz 94 [BOX SCORE]
The Thunder outscored Utah 32-14 in the fourth quarter to grab a win after being down by as many as 17 points.
Dec. 20: Thunder 107, Jazz 79 [BOX SCORE]
The Thunder trounced a Jazz team that was without Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. The OK3 combined for 60 points on 20-of-37 shooting.
Dec. 23: Thunder 103, Jazz 89 [BOX SCORE]
No Gobert again for Utah. The OK3 combined to score 69 points in the double-digit win.
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Red Hot Jazz. Utah was unreal down the stretch of the regular season, winning 17 of their last 21 games and nearly snagging the West’s 3-seed. They were four games under .500 (15-19) at the conclusion of the last match-up with OKC. They went 33-15 from that point forward, making it reasonable to assume the Thunder has yet to see this Jazz team.
Offense vs Defense. The Jazz surrendered just 99.8 PPG to opposing offenses in the regular season, tied with San Antonio for best in the league. OKC averaged 99.2 PPG in the four match-ups against Utah — 103.3 PPG with the second game of the season not included. There’s reason to believe the Thunder can simply outscore the Jazz to take the series. That won’t happen if OKC can’t find rhythm against a stingy defense. Here’s to hoping Paul George continues the scoring efficiency we saw versus Memphis in the regular season finale. If he struggles with his shot, OKC could be in trouble.
Slowing/Matching Donovan Mitchell. Utah is led by rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell, who averaged 20.5 PPG this season. With Andre Roberson out for the season and Corey Brewer dealing with a knee sprain, defending the young man may be difficult. Josh Huestis could be called upon for defense if need be. If all else fails, Russell Westbrook may need to match the rookie’s scoring output.
Adams vs Gobert. Two of the Thunder’s three wins against the Jazz this season came with Rudy Gobert missing from the lineup. Steven Adams will draw the match-up with the Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and will need to play well in order to disrupt Utah’s defensive anchor. Gobert comes in averaging 13.5 points and 10.7 rebounds. Adams put up a regular season stat line of 13.9 points and 9 rebounds.
Health. Roberson is out for the season, Brewer’s knee sprain could be problematic, and Alex Abrines remains in the league’s concussion protocol. Utah is the healthier team, likely missing just Thabo Sefolosha when the series opens up on Sunday.
Game 1 tips off at 5:30 PM CT on Sunday. Plenty more to come.