Game 73 Preview: Oklahoma City vs. Utah; Are we looking at a division title?

This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.

Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (48-28) vs. Utah Jazz (50-27)

Time: 8 PM Central Standard Time

Place: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Utah

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)

Enemy Blog(s): SLC Dunk, True Blue Jazz, Salt City Hoops

Previous Matchup(s): Nov. 24, Dec. 31, Mar. 14

For Matchup Analysis, go here.

Backstory: I'm not going to sit here and type that this game alone will determine how we finish in the division.

But hell, it's about as close as you can get to a must-win situation. The Thunder are facing the Jazz tonight, and the Nuggets tomorrow night. If they win both games, they'll most likely be sitting at the top of the Northwest Division and in place for a high seed going into the playoffs.

Unfortunately, all of that is easier said than done. The Thunder have beaten the Jazz 3 times this season, but the games have been close and the Jazz are every bit as talented as us. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have destroyed the Thunder twice and are looking healthy for the playoffs. But, the upcoming game is against the Jazz, so we should focus on them.

The last time the Thunder played the Jazz, they were missing Okur and Kirilenko, turning the Jazz into a smaller and less defensively oriented team. Okur will be back for this game, but it looks like Kirilenko will be out, which is great news for the Thunder. You see, Kirilenko is one of the main assets the Jazz have against the Thunder, as he;s one of the few players in the league who can actually slow Kevin Durant down on offense. With him out, Kevin Durant will have his way with C.J. Miles, even though Miles is generally considered to be an above-average defender.

The Thunder will also have to make sure they don't get caught up in a 3 Point Contest. Every single player in the Jazz rotation sans Fesenko, Boozer, and Milsap can shoot 3s better than the Thunder's best 3 Point Shooter. Thus, the Jazz are going to be hawking up a lot of 3s, and the Thunder have to make sure they don't get caught up in it and instead focus on mid-range jumpers.

Defensively, I'd worry about keeping the lane closed for business. The Jazz will make and miss quite a bit of threes, but they live and die by whether their main scorers (Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer) can get to the rim on cutting and backdoor plays.

In the end, this game is probably going to turn into another offensively pretty game, but the Jazz will always be lurking 5-10 points behind, threatening to take advantage of a Thunder dry spell. I have a feeling that they'll make a run towards the end of the game, but, as always, they'll come up just short.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 110, Utah 107

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