Time: 7:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
The Thunder (16-8) are coming off a frustrating loss to the Chicago Bulls on the road that featured a squandered 11-point lead, 21 team turnovers, six Westbrook three-point attempts (which is six too many, in my opinion) and a narrowly missed Paul George game-winner. It was only the Thunder’s fourth loss in the past 20 games; so in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not all that significant.
The Thunder are heading into a tough four-game stretch against Western Conference opponents (including two Division rivals) and they can’t afford to make the same mistakes tonight against the Jazz (13-14). The Thunder are currently a half-game back of the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference standings and there’s no reason why they can’t tack on three or four more wins by the end of the week.
Tip-off is at 7:00 P.M. CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are five-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
Jazz: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Rudy Gobert
|Team||EFG||FTA%||TO%||OREB%||OP EFG||OP FTA||OP TO||OP OREB|
What to Watch For
Defense Leading to Offense. The Thunder have been wildly inconsistent on offense this season, especially from beyond the arc. But, they’ve been able to hang with better shooting teams by allowing their stifling defense to turn into offensive production. The Thunder currently lead the NBA in defensive rating (101.4) and steals per game (10.4) while ranking in the top 10 in both defensive rebounds per game (6th, 36.2) and blocks per game (9th, 5.8). Additionally, OKC is currently holding opponents to the third-fewest three-pointers per game (9.8). However, the most impressive part is how they’ve capitalized on their elite defense on the offensive end as well. OKC leads the NBA in percentage points of turnovers (19.4) and offensive rebounding (13.0) while ranking 2nd in second-chance points (15.8). If the Thunder can continue this elite level of defense for the whole season, then they may be able to get by without improving their offensive consistency. However, if they can consistently rely on a few guys (outside of Adams, George, and Schröeder) to shoot above 50% AND play this level of team defense, then there’s really no ceiling for this team.
Inconsistent Jazz. At the end of last season, it looked like the Jazz were poised for a meteoric rise to the top of the Western Conference. Unfortunately for them, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Utah is 5-5 in its last 10 games and coming off a 110-97 loss to the Spurs. Part of their problem is inconsistent performances from both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Both players created problems for OKC the last time the Jazz and Thunder met in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, but Utah’s outside shooters (Joe Ingles and Derrick Favors) were honestly OKC’s ultimate downfall. To add to their outside shooting, the Jazz recently acquired Kyle Korver on November 29th from the Cavs. This means that if the Thunder doesn’t lock in on perimeter defense tonight, then “Thunder Fall to Jazz after Ingles and Korver Combine for 16 Made Threes” could be a very real headline tomorrow. RIP.
Free Throws/Woes. The Thunder have fallen to 27th in the league in free throw shooting and no one is talking about it. Russell Westbrook (usually an 80%-plus free throw shooter) is hitting just 63% of his free throws! Westbrook goes to the line more than any other Thunder player, so you can see how this is a big problem. Steven Adams and Jerami Grant, two other players that frequently go to the line for OKC, are shooting 53% and 68% from the line respectively. I’m not sure what Coach Donovan is doing to address this problem, but also where’s Scott Brooks when you need him?
Unstoppable Steven. Steven Adams is putting up career-high numbers in points (15.1) and rebounds (10.0) for OKC through 24 games. He also boasts the best +/- rating (+13.1) and the best shooting percentage on the team (60.1). Adams will have his hands full tonight with Gobert, who got the best of their matchup in last year’s playoffs.
Nick Gallo’s game day report: