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2013-2014 Game 12 Preview: Thunder Try to Solidify Division Vs. Jazz

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Welp, at least the Jazz have Trey Burke now.

Wouldn't be surprised if the Jazz were selling Utah-themed Kenny G CDs to make ends meet this year.
Wouldn't be surprised if the Jazz were selling Utah-themed Kenny G CDs to make ends meet this year.
William Bennett Berry
2013-2014 NBA Season
Lost 5

Won 3
November 24th, 2013
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
6:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Root Sports Rocky Mountain Plus
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), The Zone Sports Network (97.5 FM/1280 AM)
Injury Report: Andris Biedrins (Out), Brandon Rush (Out)
Previous Matchups: Oct 30th (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)
Probable Starters
John Lucas III PG Russell Westbrook
Gordon Hayward SG Thabo Sefolosha
Richard Jefferson SF Kevin Durant
Derrick Favors PF Serge Ibaka
Enes Kanter C Kendrick Perkins
2013/14 Advanced Stats
95.7 (25th) Pace 100.0 (T-7th)
92.7 (T-29th) ORtg 104.2 (8th)
106.1 (30th) DRtg 99.4 (9th)

Here's a few facts about the Jazz....

  • They have 1 victory this season, against the Pelicans. In that game, Richard Jefferson scored 22 points on 7-11 shooting.
  • They've had only 4 losses that came by less than 10 points.
  • Jeremy Evans, after returning from injury, has hit all 11 shots that he's attempted in two games.
  • Before the debut of the previously injured Trey Burke, they were giving Gordon Hayward significant time at point guard.
It goes without saying that this is a team you don't want to lose to. But those facts don't tell the whole story. The Jazz have actually gotten a bit better over the past couple of weeks. As mentioned, Jeremy Evans and Trey Burke, two significant back court pieces, have recently returned from injury. It'll take a while for them to develop their sea legs, but both are definite X-Factors in terms of scoring. And scoring is something that the Jazz desperately need.

Burke in particular is considered to be a significant part of the team's future, and he's performed admirably in one of his two games so far, a 7 point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Unfortunately, his 11 point performance came on the same night than Gordon Hayward shot 1-17 from the floor, so it wasn't enough to lift the Jazz to victory. His total lack of assists is worrying though, and it's looking like the Jazz will continue to have ballhandling problems for at least the near future. Diante Garrett, a training camp invite with the Thunder this year, has literally been their most consistent option in that area.

The Jazz also suffer from serious three point shooting woes, and it's doubtful that the Thunder will have problems keeping the perimeter in check. Put quite simply, the Jazz don't have any shooters on their team, and the majority of their scorers are slashers. So that department is going to remain the primary responsibility of Hayward and Lucas III.

For a team that once had the deepest big man core in the league, the Jazz are certainly looking lackluster. Their starting block of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors is admirable, but their bench is a wasteland. Rookie Rudy Gobert has proven himself to be rawer than a live cow, and the injured Andris Biedrins has no real business being in the league at this juncture. This leaves them likely only playing journeyman Marvin Williams tonight. He's had three straight games where he's scored over 14 points and shot over 45%, but he's more of a tweener than anything else.

Thus, the Jazz will likely be going small at some point during tonight's game. I'd imagine this would be an opportunity for the Thunder to go on a run, because there's no way a small-ball Jazz team could compete with the Thunder's talent. If the Jazz don't go small, they'll likely run one of their big men ragged with heavy minutes.

Of course, any Jazz fan's trump card is the first game of this season, where the Thunder struggled to overcome the Jazz with a poor fourth quarter performance and had terrible offensive cohesion. The team finished with 9 assists (the lowest number of the season), and Serge Ibaka finished the day shooting 4-15. Of course, the Thunder fan's typical response would be, "That game was played without Russell Westbrook." But honestly, the difference between today's team and that day's Thunder team is more than Westbrook. The bench rookies, three of which had never seen playing time until this season, are more comfortable in their roles. Furthermore, Serge Ibaka has shaken the early-season slump that he was in, and hasn't shot below 43% in three weeks.

To be honest, I don't think tonight's Thunder-Jazz game will be nearly as close as the one played on Halloween Night. But the Jazz do have a chance of winning. Here's how it could happen:
  • Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors does a number on Kendrick Perkins in the paint.
  • The Jazz manage to weather the storm with a significant scoring effort while the aforementioned two are on the bench.
  • John Lucas III and Gordon Hayward work well off the ball and take advantage of the Thunder starting lineup's terrible perimeter weak-side defense.
  • Trey Burke does his best impression of a living pepper box and goes off for 20 points.
  • Richard Jefferson turns in an efficient game.
Yeah, it's all pretty unlikely.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 120, Utah Jazz 95.

What do you think about tonight's game? Let us know in the poll and comments!