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Thunder vs Jazz preview: will OKC and Utah defenses determine the outcome?

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Funaki vs the Stifle Tower!

NBA: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, the Oklahoma City Thunder are starting this new season on a positive note — winning their first game at home. However, game two isn’t a cakewalk, as the Thunder travel to take on the Utah Jazz and their dominant defense.

  • Venue: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Date: October 21
  • Time: 9:00 PM EDT

Due to free agency, Utah lost their superstar player, Gordon Hayward. However, the Jazz doesn’t rely on scoring, they rely on their heavy hitting defense. Their defense is being led by their leader, Rudy Gobert, arguably the best defensive center in the game. In his last two games, he posted a double-double and shot the ball efficiently. The Jazz’s second scoring option, Rodney Hood, is day to day with a minor calf strain and will be replaced by the ageless Joe Johnson.

The Jazz is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. That game came down to the wire, but they couldn’t find a permanent player to score the points down the stretch, proving that offense will be an issue all year long. What is strange is that the Jazz is third in the league in shooting (49.4 percent) and seventh in three-point shot percentage (39.1 percent). They will work to solve that disparity.

OKC will also focus on continuing to play great defense, targeting Gobert first and then working outward. Andre Roberson and Paul George have the main responsibility to contain their shooting threats on the floor, Joe Ingles and Johnson. On the offensive end, OKC needs to continue to shoot the ball efficiently to beat the Jazz. Utah cannot go point for point against a high-scoring team, that’s why they use their defense to keep the game close.

Last game, OKC didn’t shoot the ball very well, and their mistakes can come to light against Utah. As a team, the Thunder shot 43 percent from the field and shot 28.9 percent from the three on opening day. In particular, the big three shot 43 percent on 55 shots.

It is only a small sample size, but Russ appears willing to take fewer shots this season. In the first game, he recorded his first triple-double of the season, picking up from last year. Russ was a true facilitator in the game and didn’t have to do much scoring himself to help his team win. However, playing against Utah — Russ will have to be more explosive to the rim and get his three-point shot going to keep the Jazz defense honest.

The Thunder cannot make this a battle of the benches type of game or this will be in favor of Utah. In the first game against one of the league-worst defense, nobody on the bench scored over 6 points. The second unit still needs improvements to help make OKC a true championship contender.

Key Matchup:

Steve Adams Vs Rudy Gobert

What to watch out for:

  1. Russell Westbrook being more aggressive in this game.
  2. The big three shooting efficiency.
  3. Who will be the player on the bench to step up?

Projected starting lineup:

Thunder

PG: Russell Westbrook

SG: Andre Roberson

SF: Paul George

PF: Carmelo Anthony

C: Steven Adams

Jazz

PG: Ricky Rubio

SG: Joe Ingles

SF: Joe Johnson

PF: Derrick Favors

C: Rudy Gobert

Poll

Who will win tonight’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Thunder
    (174 votes)
  • 25%
    Jazz
    (58 votes)
232 votes total Vote Now