Time: 8:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
The Oklahoma City Thunder (40-26) wrap up their four-game road trip tonight in Salt Lake City, taking on the Utah Jazz (37-28) in the final matchup between the teams this season. The Thunder lead the season series 3-0, but have fallen to fourth in the Western Conference after going 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Jazz are currently 2.5 games back in sixth, but could make up some ground by taking care of business at home. They have a record of 21-11 at Vivint Smart Home Arena this season.
Tip-off is at 8:00 PM CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 3.5-point road underdogs according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Ricky Rubio: Out — Hip
- Raul Neto: Out — Hamstring
- Dante Exum: Questionable– Ankle
- Ekpeh Udoh: Probable — Back
Jazz: Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
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What to Watch For
The Last Time. The two teams served up an instant classic on February 22 in Oklahoma City, as the Thunder escaped with a 148-147 double-overtime victory. Paul George dropped 45 points and the game-winner, Russell Westbrook added 43 points and 15 rebounds, and all five OKC starters scored in double-figures. However, the Thunder have gone just 2-6 since then, while the Jazz have a 5-2 record over the span.
Paging PG. George hasn’t been up to his MVP-standard in the three games since returning from shoulder soreness, averaging 24 PPG on 31.3 percent shooting and a 25 percent clip from long range. He’s put up 39.7 PPG in the three games against Utah this season, and the Thunder could need every bit of that to win in Salt Lake City. Another off night would likely add to deepening concerns that his shoulder isn’t quite right.
No Rubio. The Jazz will be without Ricky Rubio (hip) in this one, which is good news for Russell Westbrook. Rubio has a knack for creating chaos in the former MVP’s mind, so Russ has a clearer path to continuing his recent uptick in offensive production. Over the last five games, Westbrook is averaging 29.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists — shooting 47.4 percent from the floor and 37.8 percent from long range. If George continues struggling shooting the ball, the scoring burden will again fall on Westbrook. The presence of Rudy Gobert down low could limit his effectiveness at the rim, so we may be holding our breaths on numerous Westbrook jumpers tonight.
Defending the Jazz. Donovan Mitchell leads the Jazz in scoring at 23.5 PPG, and hit OKC for 38 points the last time the teams squared off on February 22. He’s joined in double-figures by Gobert (15.4 PPG, 12.8 RPG), Jae Crowder (12 PPG), Joe Ingles (11.9 PPG), and Derrick Favors (11.6 PPG).
3-Point Shooting. The Thunder made 35.2 percent of their 3-point attempts prior to the All-Star Game, good for 13th-best in the NBA. However, in the nine games since the break, OKC’s 3-point percentage has fallen to 31.1 percent — third-worst in the league over the span. A lot of that has to do with George and his struggles, but Terrance Ferguson is making just 28.2 percent of his 4.3 3PAs per game over the nine contests. That’s nearly 10 percentage points worse than his pre-All-Star numbers, and he could help bolster the OKC attack by finding some rhythm.
Staying Out of Foul Trouble. For the sake of winning (and PG’s pocket), the Thunder simply must stay out of foul trouble tonight. George, Westbrook, and Steven Adams all fouled out of Friday’s game in Los Angeles, and the Thunder’s opponents have taken 35 more free throws over the last two games. Continuing that trend is a recipe for disaster, particularly against a solid opponent in a tough road environment.