Time: 8:00 PM CST
The Oklahoma City Thunder (20-10) are on the road in Utah this evening, taking on the Jazz (16-17) in a Northwest Division showdown. This is the second meeting between the teams this season, as OKC took a 122-113 victory on December 10 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder will be looking to win their fourth-straight — with the underachieving Jazz hoping to pick up their third-straight victory after recent wins over Portland and Golden State.
Tip-off is at 8:00 P.M. CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 1.5-point road underdogs according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
Jazz: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
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What to Watch For
Last Time. The Thunder took a nine-point victory over Utah on December 10, riding 31 points (8/10 FG, 5/6 3P) from Paul George and 22 points and seven rebounds from Steven Adams. Russell Westbrook notched a 12-11-10 triple-double, but struggled with his shot — going 4-of-18 from the floor and 0-of-5 from long range. Dennis Schroder picked up the slack, contributing 23 points off the Thunder bench.
The Big Men. The men in the middle will be the focus, as the Adams/Gobert match-up will likely play a large part in tonight’s outcome. Gobert has recorded four straight double-doubles against OKC, but Adams is playing the best basketball of his career at the moment. Bigi Kiwi is averaging 16.2 points and 10.2 rebounds this season (both career-highs) and is coming off the first 20/20 game of his career after posting 20 points and 23 rebounds against the Kings on Wednesday night. In nine December games, Adams is averaging 20 points and 9.7 rebounds — look for him early and often in this one. (Though he’s not too keen on discussing a potential All-Star bid.)
PG Heat Check. Speaking of career-seasons, the Thunder’s superstar small forward is on an absolute tear — averaging 30.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 44.7 percent shooting from long range in the month of December. He’s scored 40+ twice this month and, as always, is locked in on the defensive end. He carved the Jazz up with an ultra-efficient outing earlier this month and there’s no reason to assume he won’t stay aggressive tonight. His match-up with Joe Ingles wasn’t much of a challenge last time, as Ingles posted just six points in 25 minutes. Keeping him out of rhythm would go a long way toward picking up another victory.
Evolution of Russ. Westbrook is in the midst of a puzzling 2018-19 season, as he’s averaging a triple-double yet again — but struggling mightily with his shot. His three-point percentage is a paltry 24.5 percent and he’s hitting just 60.1 percent of his free throws. The Thunder are winning ball games (which is all that ultimately matters) but getting a true breakout game from the point guard would ease some fears about how good the Thunder can actually be. George has been unbelievable as OKC’s go-to scorer — but it would be naive to assume his dominance will last forever. Westbrook picking up some slack is an absolute must.
Backups Back: Dennis Schroder and Raymond Felton served a one-game suspension on Wednesday in Sacramento. Westbrook’s top backups at point guard are back and available tonight in Utah.
The Space Between. Though the Jazz have a losing record through 33 games (16-17), they’re likely a better team than record would indicate. They’ve played the toughest schedule in the NBA according to ESPN — but are coming off back-to-back strong performances against the Blazers and Warriors. The Thunder have played the softest schedule in the league to date, so the difference between the two teams isn’t as great as the standings would lead you to believe. This is a good Jazz team and a tough road test for OKC tonight.