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Thunder Gameday: Utah Jazz (42-26) Game Prep Quickie

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Well, this gameday post snuck up on me, and I don't really have time to write anything. So just in case you were wondering if the Thunder had a game today, they do, at home, in the Ford Center. The Utah Jazz come in to town, and although they are 2-3 in their last five games, they had a stretch here recently were they were unbeatable. So its going to be another tough game at home tonight for the Thunder. I guess its a fitting end to a tough week, the Spurs, Bulls, and now Jazz. Tipoff is 7pm and thats about all the time I have this morning. I've included the Yahoo Sports preview of the game inside the full post, so you can have something to read.

Yahoo Sports Preview:

Utah (42-26) at Oklahoma City (19-49)


* Game info: 8:00 pm EDT Fri Mar 20, 2009
* TV: FSUT, SPSO

By MATT BEARDMORE, STATS Writer 14 hours, 33 minutes ago

 

Normally a win over the Eastern Conference's worst team wouldn't be a major accomplishment. But the way Utah was slipping in the Western Conference playoff race, a victory was critical for the Jazz to get back on track.

Utah looks for a second straight win over an inferior opponent and returns to the site of one of its ugliest losses of the season Friday night, facing an Oklahoma City Thunder squad hoping to start a new home winning streak.

With three consecutive losses to finish its five-game eastern trip, Utah (42-26) returned home Tuesday and defeated the lowly Washington Wizards 103-88 despite committing 19 turnovers.

"It wasn't the prettiest game. It was a little ugly," Carlos Boozer said after posting his third straight double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds. "For us, we'll take a win after a three-game slide."

Injuries forced Boozer to miss the last two games against the Thunder (19-49), including the Jazz's 114-93 loss in Oklahoma City on Jan. 14. That is Utah's second-most lopsided loss of the season and it came against a team which currently owns the league's fifth-worst record.

Deron Williams has averaged 24.5 points and 9.0 assists in two games against the Thunder this season, though he's been limited to 23 points over the last two games. He tied a season high with eight turnovers Tuesday, but the win helped Utah keep pace in the crowded Western playoff race.

"It was just important for us to get this one - just for our confidence," Williams said. "We had three tough losses on the road and we were struggling."

Utah heads into Friday's matchup in seventh place in the conference, but is within 1 1/2 games of fourth as well as the Northwest Division lead.

"That's one of the things you always have to be concerned about is are the playoffs important enough for you to go after it?" Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We can talk about it all we want, but sometimes our effort doesn't look like that."

Oklahoma City, meanwhile, isn't talking about the playoffs, but rather maintaining a playoff-type intensity for its final 14 games. After winning a season-best four in a row at home, the Thunder fell to Chicago at the Ford Center on Wednesday, 103-96.

Oklahoma City held its previous four opponents at home to an average of 80.0 points and 41.0 percent shooting. The Bulls made 52.5 percent.

"We played a little happy," Thunder interim coach Scott Brooks told the team's official Web site. "We've won these games by playing with a little anger on the defensive end. We did not have that tonight."

Kevin Durant scored a team-high 28 points but missed 12 of 21 shots. In three games since returning from a seven-game absence due to a sprained right ankle, Durant is scoring 25.0 points per game - his season average is 25.9 - but shooting just 43.1 percent after hitting 57.0 percent in his final five games before getting hurt.

The second-year forward had 29 points and 10 boards in the teams' last game - a 110-90 loss at Utah on Jan. 30.

Russell Westbrook had 20 points and eight rebounds in that defeat. Among rookies, the Thunder's 6-foot-3 point guard is ranked third in the league in scoring (15.8), second in assists (5.0) and sixth in rebounds (4.8).