Game 46: Oklahoma City Thunder (34-11, Road: 15-7) @ Utah Jazz (23-22, Home: 17-6*)
Okay, fine, Oklahoma City goes for the sweep, but it doesn't sound as good.
The Jazz have not beaten the Thunder is a while. Almost two seasons. The last time we did the Jazz were still starting Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko -- which seems like ages ago. OKC is the best team in the Western conference, and we're fighting for our playoff lives. We know who they are, and we still don't really know who we are. They also just added Derek Fisher, or so it seems.
So that's always good, but he still needs to clear waivers (on Wednesday), so he'll not be playing tonight.
What's going on with the Thunder?
The Thunder are a very good team. They score a lot. They are #1 in offensive rating, and #2 in points per game. They have the fourth fastest pace in the league, and with the guys they have on their squad (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden) you kinda expect them to be in attack-mode. Their defense is middle of the road (not top 10, not bottom 10). But that's fine, because they do have very solid individual defenders in Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, and Thabo Sefolosha on the roster to plug in and try to stop guys. I wouldn't say they are the complete team, but they do a lot of everything. They are #2 in getting to the line (I wonder why), #8 in total rebounds, and #1 in blocks.
Kevin Durant is having a whale of a season, scoring 27.7 ppg (and shooting 50 / 37 / 85), ALSO grabbing 7.9 rpg, with 3.4 apg, 1.4 spg, and 1.2 bpg. Russell Westbrook is having a great season as well with 24.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.6 rpg, and 1.7 spg. Harden brings up the rear with 17.1 ppg off the bench, with 4.2 rpg, and 3.7 apg. (I wonder how much playing time they got in their first two years, just wonderin' . . . )
Aside from their three primary offensive talents they are a solid group where everyone pitches in. For the most part it has worked, but in their 10 games they have won only 6 times. Of course, this is on the heels of a 6 game stretch of domination. Maybe a game against the Jazz is just what they need to start another streak? If we are 'for reals' then we will show up tonight 'for reals'.
They are in perfect health save for Eric Maynor (former Jazz pick) who is out for the rest of the season. I wish him the best.
After the Jump -- What's going on with the Jazz
What's going on with the Jazz?
The Jazz are in their playoff push mode, and the Jazz have won three games in a row. And they are coming for all the teams on their list. And their list is every team from #4 on down in the West. OKC is a formidable for, but they are not an obstacle - just a challenge. Earl Watson is a game time decision. Al Jefferson should also be back. Raja Bell is still not playing. These are ideal situations. Utah just beat LA, *in LA*. If we ever had post-All Star break swagg this year then it would be now.
We're not a perfect team, and we seem to struggle when we focus on the big guys and let the little guys kill us. I don't mean (just specifically) opposing point guards; I mean non-stars. I remember a Thunder/Jazz game where we let Serge Ibaka have a career game against us because we were more worried about Durant and company. I guess that's only natural, but our game plan has to be a bit more dynamic if we're going to prevent the sweep tonight.
After all, this is the team that we are most likely going to face in the playoffs if we get there. Knowing how to change plans in-game would be useful.
* see post in comments section. Great look out!