Jazz (41-24, 19-12 road) vs. Thunder (36-29, 24-9 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 2:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.5 (18th), Jazz – 107.0 (13th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.4 (10th), Jazz – 101.8 (3rd)
The Oklahoma City Thunder finally got off the schneid on Thursday, beating the San Antonio Spurs in convincing fashion, 102-92. The Thunder had suffered through a four game losing streak prior to that, exhibiting some rather disconcerting habits during the skid. But that all hopefully reversed itself on Thursday.
The offense flowed a lot better with Russell Westbrook playing the role of maestro, conducting the symphony of Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, Steven Adams, and Enes Kanter to a crescendo of 56 points combined. In the process, Westbrook stopped his triple-double drought at 4 games, which was the most he’s gone without a triple-double since November, when he went 6 games without a triple-double. This latest triple double tied Westbrook with Wilt Chamberlain for the 2nd most triple-doubles in a season with 31.
On the defensive end, the Thunder looked good in stopping penetration and strongly defending the Spurs’ mid-range game. But here’s where I worry about fool’s gold. The Spurs were without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who are far and away the Spurs’ best paint penetrators. Without having to worry about those two getting into the lane, the Thunder could focus all their defensive efforts on Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. But had those two played, the outcome of the game may have played out completely different. The Thunder still have a lot to shore up on that end of the floor. Hopefully the addition of Taj Gibson to the starting line-up will pay dividends on the defensive side of the ball.
Season Series Summary
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams vying for the Northwest Division crown. The Thunder currently lead the season series 2-1, but sit 5 games behind the Jazz in the standings. The lone Jazz victory was a blowout, while the two Thunder victories were tightly, contested games that came down to the final possessions.
Three Big Things
1. Lessons from the last meeting
If you remember from the last time these two teams played, the Thunder shot lights out for all of the first half, but only went into the half up by 8. Most any other team puts on that kind of shooting performance in one half and they go up by 20, easily. But the Thunder’s defensive struggles didn’t start when the losing streak started. No; their defensive struggles began in the Utah game. They allowed George Hill and Gordon Hayward to get into the paint at will, which allowed the Jazz shooters to get open throughout the night. The Jazz shot 40.9% from deep in that game and outscored the Thunder 54-42 in the paint. Outside of an outlier shooting performance by the Thunder and Russell Westbrook heroics as the end of the game, this game should have been a Jazz victory.
The Thunder are one of the best offensive rebounding teams, while the Jazz are one of the best defensive rebounding team in the league. Immovable object meet the unstoppable force. I know this is a bad statistical cause and effect, but the winner of the rebounding battle in each of the games in this series has gone on to win the game.
3. Victor Oladipo
Westbrook is going to Westbrook. But the return of Victor Oladipo has given the Thunder a consistent 2nd scoring option. From night to night, the secondary scoring option was always a mystery when Oladipo was out. Some nights it was Kanter. Others it was a combination of Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott if they were hitting from outside. But most nights when Oladipo was out, Westbrook had to shoulder the load and score at least 40 to give the Thunder a chance. With Oladipo back, the necessity of Westbrook having to Kobe goes down significantly.