The Thunder pasted the short-handed Jazz Wednesday night, 107 to 79, at the ‘Peake, but Utah bounced back and handed the Western Conference 3rd seeded San Antonio Spurs, also playing the second game of a back-to-back, a 100 to 89 beat-down the following night back in Salt Lake City.
For their part leading into tonight’s rematch, the Thunder let another double-digit halftime lead slip through their fingers and beat the last place Atlanta Hawks, 120 to 117, on a three-point dagger from Russell Westbrook with less than 2 seconds remaining in the contest.
Squandering an opportunity to finish off the Hawks early and missing a chance to rest the starters in the fourth quarter could prove fatal against a Jazz team that sports a stellar 12 and 5 home record. Vivint Smart Home Arena, though not quite the physical challenge of playing in the Pepsi Center in Denver, still sits 4200 feet above sea level and the Thunder may end up wishing they saved some of that sea level air for tonight’s rematch.
Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell did not suit up against the Spurs and their status for Saturday’s game is questionable. Check your favorite sources closer to game time to determine their status.
If the Thunder hope to win both games of a back-to-back for the first time this season they will help their cause in a big way if they will hit their free throws and take care of the basketball. The Hawks stole the ball eleven times against the Thunder, many in that third quarter meltdown. The Hawks currently sit 6th in the league in steals at 8.6, but at 9.3 steals/gm, the Jazz are better and sit second only to the Thunder’s 10.0 steals/gm.
Tonight’s balls lost to steals may be excusable considering the Hawk's talent in that area, but missing 12 free throws on 31 attempts isn’t. Further, Utah isn’t Atlanta. Failure to take care of the ball and missing that many free throws against the Jazz will leave Thunder fans waiting for that first back-to-back win in back-to-back games..... again.
Who do you think will win tonight?
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