Thunder (14-8, 4-5 road) vs. Jazz (10-10, 5-4 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 8:00 PM CST
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.3 (2nd), Jazz – 105.5 (10th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.0 (11th), Jazz – 103.4 (14th)
Consistency. It’s what championship contenders lean on when struggles occur. If you ask a team to do what they’ve consistently done throughout the year, it becomes second nature. The Golden State Warriors know if they miss a couple outside shots, they can always have Steph Curry or Draymond Green get the ball inside and work the offense from outside in. The San Antonio Spurs know if they are struggling, they can usually run a Tony Parker pick and roll that almost always results in something positive.
The Oklahoma City Thunder look like they are starting to find consistency. The offense is playing at an unselfishly high level and the defense seems to be figuring it out. Head coach Billy Donovan (HCBD)seems to have found line-ups that work in specific situation with amazing results. We knew it would be a work in progress. We just didn’t realize how arduous that process might be. But now, Kevin Durant and company seem to be reaping the harvest that has been created by Donovan and his coaching staff.
This is the second of four meeting between these two Northwest Division rivals. In their last meeting, the Thunder played one of their best games of the season, defeating the Utah Jazz 111-89. This was one of those total team efforts where no one player’s stats stood out, but everyone was very effective.The Opponent
The Utah Jazz come into the game with a 10-10 record, having lost 3 of their last 5 games. Known primarily as a low scoring team (98.2 ppg, 20th in the league), the Jazz have scored over 100 points in 6 of their last 7 games, averaging nearly 105 ppg in that span. Their uptick in scoring is likely because of their necessity to play small ball due to Rudy Gobert’s recent knee injury. Derrick Favors has been playing the de-facto center position, while rookie Trey Lyles has seen some starts at power forward recently. Gordon Hayward has been very good in his last 5 games, scoring 22.4 ppg on 50% shooting from both the field and from 3-point territory.
The Jazz’ wing play has improved of late, with Trey Burke and Alec Burks playing a lot more consistently off the bench. The Jazz’ interior depth, which was already non-existent before Gobert’s injury, is even further depleted now.3 Big Things
With the Jazz’ lack of depth on the interior, this could be one of those games where Steven Adams and Enes Kanter both rack up double-doubles. That occurrence happened several times last season, and this game seems to be primed for that type of opportunity.
2. Perimeter Defense
The injury to Gobert may have compromised the Jazz’ defense a bit, but it opened up their offense. The Jazz have 5 rotation players that are shooting over 36.6% from deep. In their previous meeting, the Jazz shot a putrid 5-19 from deep (25.3%), keying the Thunder’s defense and fast-break offense. In their last 5 games, the Jazz have shot 39.4% from deep as a team.
3. Russell Westbrook
Raul Neto. Trey Burke. Feast, young man. Feast.Slump-Buster (Opposing player most likely to break out against the Thunder)
Joe Ingles – If Kyle Singler had an Aussie uncle, it would be Ingles. For that reason alone, I nominate him for Slump-Buster of the game.