Utah Jazz (42-26, 13-20 road) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (19-49, 14-21 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Time: 7:00 CST
Offensive Rating: Thunder: 103.4 (28th), Utah: 110.3 (6th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder: 109.2 (20th), Utah: 106.5 (9th)
Pace:Thunder: 93.6 (8th), Utah: 92.6 (10th)
Remember what happened the last time the Jazz were here? OKC pounded them by 21 prompting the Salt Lake Tribune’s beat writer to pen this oh so hilarious lead: “Because there’s nothing to do in Oklahoma City, the Jazz had no excuse for not showing up Wednesday night against the Thunder and suffering a 114-93 humiliation at the hands of the NBA’s worst team.” I remember laughing at that. How clever.
Suffice to say, it would be fun to win again. Maybe ol’ Ross Siler could write something like, “The Jazz didn’t play well in Oklahoma City again – and they should have, because OKC is boring. See, because there’s nothing to do in that city. Except ride horses and pitch horseshoes. Which is exactly what Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer were seen doing before the game. Maybe that’s why they lost.” But the thing is, it’s not a stretch for the Thunder to do it. For whatever reason, a team as solid as Utah is top to bottom, they are very much below average on the road. They’re 29-6 at home, but just 13-20 on the road. They average two points less a game, three percent lower from the field, eight percent lower from three and turn it over two more times away from SLC.
And surely after a semi-disappointing loss against Chicago, OKC will come out ready to play for this one. The defense wasn’t good, the rebounding was worse and the Thunder just didn’t play well at all in the second half. But Utah is a very good squad and so it’s not like we should have expectations of a win. And they need every win they can get as they’ve lost three of four and seem to be slipping a bit in the Western playoff standings. So add that to what the Thunder did to them last time they were here and it’s unlikely the Jazz don’t come out ready to play.
There is one striking difference from the last two times these teams have played and that is that Carlos Boozer is back. The only time he played against OKC this year he scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He adds so much to the Jazz’s offensive game that he can open the world up for Williams and outside shooters like Kyle Korver and Mehmet Okur. The Jazz are tough to match up against because they are solid across the board. The Thunder really doesn’t have an answer for Boozer as Jeff Green probably isn’t strong enough to handle Boozer’s inside/outside game.
Here’s another game for Russell Westbrook to take out pen and paper and watch an opposing point guard closely. Deron Williams’ game is similar to Westbrook’s best nights – slashing, driving to the hoop and creating opportunities while also having the ability to knock down open jumpers. Westbrook has the edge on Williams quickness-wise, but Williams is so fundamentally sound that he’s going to get his. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Thabo guard him for extended minutes.
So maybe pull away from the Madness for an hour or two and check in on the Thunder tonight. Tip is at 7:00 CST. Go Royce’s Bracket.