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Ways to Win: how can Thunder defeat the Utah Jazz?

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The Utah Jazz are a developing team, but they do have a solid roster. Here are this game's Ways to Win.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Since everyone needs a bit of optimism every once in a while, let me say this:

The Jazz suck too!

Just not as much as the Thunder.

The 4-7 Jazz is a team still in a rebuilding phase, but they do put out a favorable starting lineup that is capable of torching a strong defense (Thunder are currently 6th in the league, allowing only 94 points per game, which is remarkable defensive resolve considering they are almost always trailing in 4th quarters).

Gordon Hayward can throw jabs from the outside while Derrick Favors uppercuts on the inside.  While the starting five players appear to be a solid bunch, there rarely is any bench help.  Dante Exum can contribute in small amounts here and there and Rudy Gobert can grab a few rebounds, but other than those two, the Jazz bench is weak.

Overall, this can be a winnable game for OKC....wait....hold on....after last week's flop, let's not go down that road again.

Here are this game's Thunder Ways to Win.


1. Run a lot of pick and roll/pop

If you were to look at this season with a "glass half full" perspective, you would see that some of the healthy young players are developing nicely, led by Serge Ibaka.  Ibaka has expanded his offensive game in the absence of Westbrook and Durant, and can now be considered a stretch big (kinda).  The best part about Ibaka's developing jumper is the ability to run the pick and pop.  Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd destroyed defenses with this type of screen in Dallas, winning a championship together in 2011.  The key is positioning - the guard has to deliver the ball to the big where he can do something with it. Of course Dirk's effectiveness on the court is much more diverse than Ibaka's, but the concept is the same.

Against the Jazz, OKC should constantly look to run the pick and roll or pick and pop.  Trey Burke is undersized and struggles getting around screens, as seen in this clip.

If the Thunder can expose this weakness, there will be open shots available.

2. Keep it on the outside

With the exception of Enes Kanter, the Jazz big men excel at protecting the rim.  Derrick Favors is an animal down low, and it is hard to get around  Rudy Gobert's 7'2'' frame.

When OKC is not running a pick and roll or in transition, they should look to move the ball outside before throwing it to the post.  This would not only avoid Utah's defensive minded bigs, it would help with floor spacing and ball movement.  If a big man is open down low, by all means, pass it to him.  Or if Perkins is having success in the paint, keep feeding him the ball.  I think thought Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow would have an easier time playing on the outside against Burke (an undersized defender) and Alec Burks (a mediocre defender).

Shooting the ball has been a bane for OKC these past few games, but for better or worse, this is where most of their talent resides. They need to work to create more shooting opportunities for Morrow, Jeremy Lamb, and Reggie Jackson and hope they make some more than they did last game.

3. Physical play

This applies on both sides of the ball.  BE PHYSICAL.  OKC's offense is a slow and dysfunctional mess, but they do grind.  They just need to make up for the mistakes by playing tough, hard, basketball, because even though they are on a losing streak, their defense and deliberate play is giving them opportunities to win games. They should have no problem giving the Jazz a hard time scoring.  Offensively though, they cannot be afraid to be strong on the inside. Steven Adams in particular, who is as strong as anyone, needs to finish well at the rim, going for dunks instead of hook shots.

That said, I really think Derrick Favors will be an issue for OKC.  He is playing at an All-Star level and can explode for 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Steven Adams may be able to add another person to his "get under your skin" list.


If the preseason is any indication, this game will not be as easy as it seems.  But if the Thunder can expose their weaknesses and follow my ways to win,, once again they will have 4th quarter opportunities to get a much needed win.