Following a statement victory, this afternoon the Oklahoma City Thunder attempt to preserve momentum vs. Division-leading Utah from Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Thursday night, though staggered by four-consecutive losses to sub. 500 opposition, Oklahoma City rewrote a troubling narrative by eliminating San Antonio's nine-game unbeaten run.
Opposite the Spurs’ #1 rated defense, Billy Donovan’s crew exhibited tactful energy along with efficient offensive flow to net 23 assists on 43 made baskets while committing just eleven turnovers.
Amid the Thunder’s finest seasonal performance, Russell Westbrook garnered triple-double #31 as his supporting cast — led by Victor Oladipo (20 pts), Enes Kanter (11), and Steven Adams (11) — sprang to life.
In measured fashion, Westbrook involved his teammates (13 assists) while keeping his FGA’s (21) relatively low. Further, trade-deadline acquisitions Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott made their presence felt.
Versus San Antiono, Gibson, a Veteran of 570 NBA contests, started his first as a Thunder. Meanwhile, McDeromott (11 pts) opened offensive avenues with accurate mid-range shooting.
After this touchstone showing, OKC improved to 25-6 on the year when Westbrook triple-doubles, and 28-9 when the six-time All Star dishes ten-plus assists.
Concurrently, Utah has won four straight after toppling Houston 115-108 Wed. night. During their road win, the Jazz displayed a patient, yet effective two-way execution as Gordon Hayward (23 pts) and Rudy Gobert (23 pts, 10 rebs) anchored each end of the floor.
Further, since last tasting defeat, Quin Snyder’s bunch has discovered a potent synergy while holding opponents to 99.5 ppg. On the year, the Jazz rank third in DefRtg and fourth in NetRtg (+5.2).
However, Oklahoma City’s improvisational style has given methodical Utah fits this season. The Thunder lead Utah 2-1 in the Northwest Division rivals’ meetings.
Conspicuously, Russell Westbrook’s fourth-quarter heroics have defined OKC’s previous two masteries of the Jazz. Westbrook’s final stanza averages of 14 ppg bolster his triple-double (40.5 ppg, 11 rpg, 10 apg) output in OKC’s latest victories vs. sturdy Utah.
It is worthy to note that in these contests Westbrook netted 9-16 3PM.
As such, today’s matinee should prove a competitive final 16-17’ regular season affair between these quality opponents.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (36-29 #6 west) vs. UTAH JAZZ (41-24 #4 west)
- Oklahoma City Thunder leads season series vs. Utah 2-1
- Time: 3 PM ET
- Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- TV: FSOK
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Measured performance from Westbrook: Oklahoma City functions best whenever Westbrook plays with balance. The Thunder is 16-6 in contests where Russell takes 20-24 FGA. Though, OKC’s record falls to 4-8 during 30+ FGA outings from Westbrook.
- Westbrook the distributor: Oklahoma City sports a lofty 28-9 record during games in which their leader nets 10+ assists. Not coincidentally, the Thunder’s lone seasonal loss to Utah came during a five-assist performance from Westbrook.
- Disrupt Utah’s methodical rhythm: The Jazz enjoy utilizing all 24 seconds allowed to find the perfect scoring opportunity. A sound strategy would be to disrupt Utah’s passing lanes and place their offense into “hurry up” mode.
- Play physical on the interior: Utah is big up front. OKC is tough up front. This afternoon, it is imperative that Oklahoma City be the tougher team within the painted area.
- Fourth-quarter composure: This contest is likely to become a grinding, possession-by-possession attrition-fest for both teams. Such contests generally necessitate a strong fourth-quarter performance from Westbrook for OKC to prevail.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER:
Today, an Oklahoma City win would virtually erase the bitter aftertaste of a recently abolished four-game losing streak.
That stated, it is imperative vs. Utah that OKC manufacture the same intensity and focus presented against San Antonio. On that night, Coach Donovan’s men showed a powerful glimpse of their potential.
To unseat streaking Utah, this potential will need to be realized.
A year following Utah’s razor-thin post-season miss, this revamped squad has fulfilled each pre-season expectation placed upon it.
Further, minus starters Derrick Favors and George Hill, the Jazz’ discipline and depth shined Wed. during Utah’s standout road victory vs. Houston.
Already an upper-echelon team, at the moment, the Jazz are a dangerous team. As touched upon, Oklahoma City will need to find ways to disrupt Utah’s budding chemistry.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS/INJURY REPORTS
The Oklahoma City Thunder have no injuries to report. The Utah Jazz list George Hill (Toe) as questionable vs. Oklahoma City. Derrick Favors (Knee) will not play today.
Oklahoma City Thunder
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Taj Gibson/Domantas Sabonis
- Center: Steven Adams
- Point Guard: George Hill
- Shooting Guard: Rodney Hood
- Small Forward: Gordon Hayward
- Power Forward: Joe Johnson
- Center: Jeff Withey
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: Push
As of 8 AM ET Sat morning, the Vegas books have yet to release a betting line due to George Hill and Derrick Favors’ uncertain playing status. Though, minus both key cogs vs. Houston, Utah performed well while starting Joe Johnson at the PF in a small-ball lineup.
In that setting, the Jazz exhibited increased mobility and ball movement —both of which give OKC problems. Therefore, perhaps a return of Hill and Favors would be favorable for Oklahoma City’s cause.
Today’s key matchup pits Russell Westbrook vs. the fourth quarter. Prior outings vs. Utah speak to the undeniable importance that a robust Westbrook fourth-quarter effort carries against the well-balanced Jazz.
Oklahoma City sports a 24-9 home record. Meanwhile, the Jazz stand 19-12 (4th NBA) on the road.
*Update: George Hill (Toe) will play today vs. Oklahoma City. However, Derrick Favors (Knee) and Rudy Gobert (Late scratch) will not participate in this afternoon’s contest.