The Utah Jazz face off for the second time this season against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In that game the Jazz kept it close for a while (miss you Mike Harris!) but eventually lost 95-73. In addition to that being the first game of the season for both teams it was a game where the Thunder had to play without Russell Westbook. Well, it's unfortunate that he is injured again and will miss this match-up. But beyond that first game back in October what has happened to lead both teams to this point in the season?
Well, Oklahoma City leads the division and the Western Conference despite Westbrook's injuries this season and have a 27-7 record, they are 12-4 on the road, 17-5 against the West, but only 6-3 against the Northwest Division. That is some solace but in reality OKC is 7-3 in their last ten, playing well, and have racked up recent wins against just about everyone. They have won 22 of their last 26 games. The only losses have come against the Brooklyn Nets, Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors, and Portland Trail Blazers -- by a grand total 19 points total. The last two losses by only 2 points and 4 points. In their last game they unloaded against the Boston Celtics and won by all of the points.
Scott Brooks is coaching them to victories predicated by offensive efficiency, they are #3 in PPG at 106.0, and #5 in ORTG at 109.2 points / 100.0 poss. They play at the 5th fastest pace in the league and, surprise of all surprises, are #3 in DRTG as well as 100.8 points surrendered / 100.0 poss. That adds up to being top 10 in everything -- including #8 in opponents PPG --> 97.9 points against. That's a margin of victory of +8.1. Or two Richard Jeffersons. (okay, that's a lie.)
OKC is 5th best in 2 pt fg%, get to the line a TON (and are 1st in FT% at 81.9%), and protect their glass on defense. They also lead the NBA in blocks this season. They are middle of the pack in a lot of categories and if they have a weakness it's that they don't force a lot of turn overs, and can be turn over prone themselves on offense. That's really it. After a while it just comes down to players -- and OKC has a lot of rotation players performing well.
Yeesh, I didn't know Russ was such a huge part of their team -- but they still win when he's out. Reggie Jackson (you may remember him from the Orlando Summer League killing teams) has stepped up bigtime and is holding things down. But really, this team is all about Kevin Durant and Kevin Durant getting to the FT line. We know this. We've known this since he was part of the Seattle Supersonics. Kendrick Perkins is a sack of potatoes out there and Derek Fisher lied. But beyond that everyone else is very solid. Serge Ibaka is improving his range, and guys like Collison and Adams get all of the rebounds and hustle plays. On paper this team doesn't look great, but they are truly greater than the sum of their parts.
The Jazz, on the other hand, where do I start? We should be okay on paper too, but I think we play worse than we should. Part of that is coaching, but I'm not going to get into it. The results speak for themselves. We're #28 in PPG and #24 in offensive rating. We're #30 in defensive rating. We play at the 27th fastest pace so we're only #17 in Opp PPG. Teams live at the line against us, we suck at protecting our glass, teams shoot great against us, and we shoot really poorly. I'm not using any numbers here because as a numbers guy it just hurts too much. Seriously. By the numbers we are playing really poorly; despite whatever the on paper idea of our team should be.
Reality can be a harsh dream. But hey -- at least none of our players are thriving again for another year. (And yes, even Big Al didn't thrive in our system. He was used better by the T-Wolves than he was by the Jazz. What does that say about us?) Anyway, D-Fav isn't getting a double double, Richard is 4th on the team this year in MPG and total MIN played, and Enes is playing a handful of minutes more than Jeremy -- and they are at #7 and #8 out of our 10 man rotation.
|9||John Lucas III||1||26||17.7||4.8||1.1||1.4||0.6||2.3||0.4||0.0||5.9||16.7%||12.5%||3.5%|
But it's okay. We play a guy with a 5.9 PER 17.7 mpg and start a guy with a 11.6 PER and play him 27.2 mpg. What did we expect from this year? Wins? Or development? No, we are doing it in a different way. The Thunder did it development (and losing first) and now they are getting all the wins. But ask Randy Rigby -- we did it right.
The Jazz are 83-93 against the Sonics/Thunder over the course of their history, but lead 47-36 at home. Both teams aren't tired. We're at full health -- but Rudy Gobert and Ian Clark are in the D-League showcase right now and Mike Harris was just waived. OKC is healthy as well, minus Russ. We have the advantage of being at home and being healthier. That is nice. They are the more talented team, have officially recognized stars, have a COY leading them in time outs, and are leading the West in wins right now.
OKC should win, it would be nice if we don't make it so easy for them.