Game: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Utah Jazz
Time: 8PM CST
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City
Counterpart: SLC Dunk
The Oklahoma City Thunder head to Utah tonight to play their 4th and final game of the regular season against the Jazz. The Thunder have already wrapped up the season series, but the last two games were extremely close, with the one two weeks ago running to instant double-OT classic, culminating with a Paul George game-winner so pretty that I have to show it again:
That was the first game after the All-Star break, and Thunder fans probably thought they were in store for a season-defining run, after a win like that.
Not so fast.
Since then, entering the toughest part of their regular season, proceeded to go 2-6, looking thoroughly outclassed by the likes of the Nuggets, Spurs, and Timberwolves. To be fair, OKC was without George for 3 games (Thunder aren’t talking, but word on the street is torn rotator cuff) and faced the Kings and Clippers on the 2nd night of back-to-backs. But the Thunder have not exactly inspired confidence, barely beating the Grizzlies before another OT grinder against the Trail Blazers. Even worse, the bad stretch has coincided with a suddenly-healthy and ferocious Rockets team, who has taken over the 3rd seed in winning 8 in a row, including convincing wins over the 76ers, Celtics, Raptors, and Warriors. The two teams appear to be going in opposite directions.
Which makes tonight’s game all the more intriguing. The Jazz notoriously and mercilessly ended OKC’s season last year, and the Thunder have sought about proving they are a superior model this season. At times, including their 3 wins over Utah, they have shown that they can be, but at other times, such as over the last 2 weeks, they appear worse, and now we wonder if the Thunder’s end-point might be the same.
They should be motivated tonight, but so should the Jazz. Utah is neck-and-neck with the Spurs and Clippers while chasing the Blazers. They won’t want to be swept, and have looked to be the better team at times in this regular season series. But OKC won’t back down either, looking to finish off their 2nd regular season sweep within a week, after doing the same against Portland.
The matchup largely comes down to several factors:
Russell Westbrook’s point guard matchup against
Ricky RubioI mean Raul Netonope...who is playing point tonight for Utah?
- Steven Adams banging bodies with Rudy Gobert
- Paul George and his suddenly suspect shot against Donovan Mitchell
But perhaps the biggest key nobody really talks about is Derrick Favors. He was nearly perfect the last time out, and OKC has yet to show they can control the Jazz forward with Jerami Grant. Will Markieff Morris (newly acquired and largely ineffective in the 2OT win) and even Patrick Patterson offer a solution?
There’s a lot on the line tonight, not the least of which Joe Ingles, who will likely be looking to goad Westbrook into picking up his 16th tech on the season (thereby disqualifying Russ in his next game against the Nets).
Should be fun, but will it be a win?
Who do you think will win tonight?
This poll is closed