The Oklahoma City Thunder continue their trip through the theoretical 'have-nots' of the Western Conference with a game tonight against the Utah Jazz, in Salt Lake City. OKC played last night in Sacramento against the Sacramento Kings, and lost a close game. They are far from hapless on the road, though; they have a 11-5 record away from the Thunderdome. (I have no clue what their arena is called. We're a music related team with a radioactive waste management company's name on our arena. So I'm not going to make any fun if their stadium isn't the Thunderdome.) As a point of reference, the Jazz are 11-4 at home. So the Thunder are about as good on the road as we are at home.
Also they have two All-Stars and we have none. But they are winning almost 80% of their games right now. I can't complain. Click on to get to know what's going on with the Thunder, and what's going on with our Jazz.
What's going on with the Thunder?
This season many things are falling into place for the Thunder. For one, they are winning a lot of games. The west isn't filled with the same type of talent drop off that the east has, and as a result, many of the wins they have had are against solid teams. They have the second best record in the entire league, but only the 7th best point differential. This means that they win games, and a lot of them are close games. This type of 'trial by fire' will only serve them well going forward. OKC was a special team, they quickly recognized that the players on their roster with the brightest futures, and longest futures with the team were the young guys -- and they played them early and often. Now they are powered by that young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, injured Eric Maynor, and company. Bravo to them.
This season they are:
- #3 in FG%
- #2 in FTM
- #2 in FTA
- #1 in FT%
- #10 in Total Rebounds
- #2 in blocks
- and #3 in PPG
They get it done on offense, and are efficient in some ways -- #4 O-Rating. Defense is another subject where they are decidedly average. Their saving grace is their core of young guys can run all day long, and they have the #3 highest pace.
Lately they have gone 7-3, collecting wings against the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, and the Golden State Warriors among others. They did lose to the LA Clippers and San Antonio Spurs -- and the key in those games appears to be: let Durant and Westbrook have all the shots; and either have super balanced scoring, or have Tony Parker go for 40 and 10. We don't have Tony Parker on our team, so I guess balance is the way to go. Also, if you want to beat the Thunder you gotta make your free throws. They will make theirs.
What's going on with the Jazz?
The Jazz have lost some close games and lost some blow outs. The Utah Jazz that we love is the one that competes, regardless of the score. If we play hard all game long then there's a chance to win. If the Jazz come out sluggish and have to fight their way back in (see New York Knicks game) then it's going to be an uphill battle inefficient scorers are Al Jefferson are not built to win.
I think our team has had some rest, and should come out with fire tonight. If they do not, then I have to re-re-adjust my expectations for them this season. It's not like OKC is an easy match-up for any team. We usually lose to them, and face them four times this year. So it would be all too easy to expect a loss here. What I do not expect is for our team to give up and not try though. They did try in all the other games this week. They just didn't get the job done.
Lately our Jazz team have been trying to cope with the yearly injury to Paul Millsap. Sap is playing hurt right now, but not discussing it with the media. He's taking the road John and Karl took about it. The problem is that he's not delivering right now. Big Al has been putting in work, but the main litmus test for the Jazz is if they are getting anything from their wings. It's no surprise that games are easier to win when you have more than just two guys scoring for you. If we see strong, aggressive play from Gordon Hayward, C.J. Miles, Raja Bell, and Josh Howard (and new Jazz man, hustle guy supreme, DeMarre Carroll) we may have a fighting chance.
If not, well, then at least I hope Tyrone Corbin doesn't revert to "Well, it's not like I can just play guys like Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans or something . . ." mode. After all, what's the point of having assets (the word Kevin O'Connor uses for draft picks) if you never use them?
Only in my night mares. Man, this team was a whole lot easier to beat up on back when they were the Seattle Super Sonics. That's totally a correlation does not equal causation thing, but since they moved they've been a serious pain, ha ha.