Oklahoma City Thunder (11-35, 3-18 road) vs. Utah Jazz (25-21, 17-6 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Offensive Rating: Thunder: 102.3 (28th), Utah: 109.4 (9th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder: 108.6 (18th), Utah: 107.1 (14th)
Pace: Thunder: 93.7 (6th), Utah: 92.1 (11th)
Maybe Kevin Durant will use the snub to power him to a huge game, because we know the Jazz are going have a little incentive after the beatdown Oklahoma City put on them last meeting. And there’s nothing more I’d love than a good win so we can all email Ross Siler again and tell him how much he sucks at trying to be clever.
So far the season series is 1-1 with each team protecting their home floor. And I fully expect that to happen again tonight. I love the way OKC is playing right now, with the offense clicking and the defense challenging every shot but two things: 1) Utah plays very well at home (12-1 against the West) and 2) The impact of losing Desmond Mason. The thing about losing Mason is that the team will feel the sting on the defensive end, but especially tonight. Why? Because tonight, Scott Brooks has to try and figure out how he’s going to swing it without Mason. It’s going to be tough to figure out what pairings work on the fly and I expect to see some defensive lapses early.
Another thing is that the Jazz are slipping. They’ve lost four in a row and I’m sure they’re looking at this one as a chance to right themselves a little. They just lost Andrei Kirilenko for an extended period and are still without Carlos Boozer. And OKC didn’t see Paul Millsap when the two teams last met and Millsap changes a lot of things. He’s a strong rebounder and a big body on the blocks.
But losing Kirilenko – a strong defender – really hurts. Over the last nine, the Jazz are giving up 108 points a game and allowing opponents to shoot almost 50 percent. While OKC will surely miss Mason, the Jazz might miss Kirilenko more.
It’s been almost two years since the Jazz lost three in a row at home and almost the same amount of time since the Thunder franchise has won three in a row, period. The Thunder’s not the best road team, but there’s no doubt in my mind that OKC will have a chance in the fourth quarter. And that’s always the key on the road – just be in the game with 12 minutes to go. Give yourself a chance. And when you have Kevin Durant on your team, you have a pretty good chance if you’re close.
One thing that’s totally unrelated: Everybody is talking All-Star snubs today, but let’s look at the players that were snubbed from the “snub list.” In the East, nobody is talking about Jose Calderon, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, Richard Jefferson and Emeka Okafor. In the West, Jason Terry, Manu Ginobli, Jamal Crawford, John Salmons, Mehmet Okur and LaMarcus Aldridge.
If we continue on, we can finally get to the conclusion we’re all looking for. That Robert Swift was snubbed from the list of snubbed snubs, and then was snubbed from that corresponding list. Basically, if you take it far enough, you can somehow put Robert Swift into the All-Star discussion. Fun!
But anyway, back to the matter at hand. OKC at Utah. Just no way Utah doesn’t come out intense and looking to get back on track. They’re at home, they play well there and OKC isn’t so great on the road. Plus, this just feels like the type of game OKC loses. The Thunder messed around with a team they could have easily put away two nights ago and we might see some hangover from that. But if I’m wrong, I love it. I love being wrong when I think OKC is going to lose. I’ll even make a prediction for funs: Utah 99, Oklahoma City 95. There. Now watch me be wrong – hopefully.