NBA Preseason: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz - Preview

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

NBA Preseason 2012-2013, Game 2

Oklahoma City Thunder (0-1) @ Utah Jazz (0-1)

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The Basics:

Game 2 of the preseason starts, and honestly, I expected the team to have made some cuts by this time. I guess there is good reason why NOT to make cuts; first of all, there are injuries ALREADY to the team, and people are excused from this game for personal reasons. After that, there's really no other reasons that you need. I don't know why that's the first point in this preview, but it is -- I thought we'd have cut some guys after three full days of practice. We have not.

So today we face off at home, our season opener if you will, and host the reigning Western Conference Champions, the OKC Thunderoos. OKC is essentially everything that we are trying hard not to be, and every season of success for them continues to make us look, well, old fashioned. If we were running their franchise, we wouldn't have gotten rid of all their veterans so many years ago, and Kevin Durant would have come off the bench for two seasons. Instead they are young, still coming into their own, and have many hours of in-game experience. And they're winning. And they're doing it just the way we don't want to do it: with youth, and with a perimeter oriented attack that maximizes getting to the free throw line and getting open shots from far.

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History:

The Jazz and thunder played three times lase season (thanks, Lockout!), and somehow played twice in our gym. OKC won two of the three, and the first two games weren't even close. The last game, the critical game for the Jazz during the playoff push, was the one we won during a stretch where the Jazz won 8 of 10 games (one of the losses being the FOUR OT game in Atlanta).

  • Game 1: Thunder 101 @ Jazz 87 -- Did you know the Jazz led after the first quarter in this game (30-27)? It was all pretty much downhill after that, as the Thunder went to the line 32 times (making 27), had 46 rebounds, and had an ORtg of 109.8. By comparison the Jazz went to the line 13 times (making 8), had only 32 rebounds, and an ORtg of 94.6. Kevin Durant had 19 points and 5 rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 steals. And both Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins had double doubles, totaling 27 points and 21 rebounds. By direct comparison, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap (our two best players) had 30 points and 17 rebounds. And our bigs shot a worse percentage and got to the line less than Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. When your two best players are bigs and they get to the line less than Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins your two best players aren't winning the battle for you. At the end of the day, when you shoot 61.5 ft% and go there 13 times, while the other team shoots 84.4 ft% and go there 32 times you're really going to lose. And that's exactly what happened.
  • Game 2: Jazz 85 @ Thunder 111 -- Game 2 was a bit easier because the Jazz were pantsed in the first quarter and never got it together. A wire to wire loss is easier to handle, I guess. It was pretty similar to Game 1 beyond that, Big Al shot 36.8 fg%, went to the line once, and finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Paul shot 44.4 fg%, went to the line twice, and finished with 10 and 8. No one on the Jazz really stepped it up (save for Derrick Favors who came off the bench and his energy got him almost as many free throw attempts as the Jazz starters). The Thunder were led by James Harden in this one (22 points off the bench, 8 FTA), while their starters had a field day shooting a billion fg%. The Thunder went to the line 34 times, had 49 rebounds (14 offensive!), and had a lot of steals (they did in Game 1 too!). And the Jazz were beaten badly.
  • Game 3: Thunder 90 @ Jazz 97 -- I Jazz needed this game, and played with pride, and won this game. For the first time in this three game season series the Jazz actually got more rebounds, and went to the line a whopping 22 times in this game! (The Thunder still shot 30 FTA, so that's an average of 32.0 times a game - two of those games where on the road for OKC) The difference wasn't that Paul or Big Al finally showed up, they still only totaled 36 points, 11 rebounds, and a poor shooting percentage. The difference in this one was that the other guys stepped up, in particular Devin Harris and Gordon Hayward. Also, Jamaal Tinsley had 11 points off of 5/7 shooting in this game. Crazy. It was a team win, and the Jazz will need to replicate that type of "everyone contributes" gameplan if they wish to win more games against OKC going forward.

OKC is a good team because they have some individually talented players. They are also bigger than we presume, where Ibaka, Perkins, Cole Aldrich, Nick Collison, and new additions Perry Jones III and Hasheem Thabeet give them some crazy size. Size enough that can make offense hard for our team, and they've demonstrated to do so last season.

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The Game:

OKC lost to the Houston Rockets in their first preseason game, and we lost to the Golden State Warriors. So this game is the game of two teams who wouldn't mind winning. In preseason game 1, OKC didn't play Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, or Serge Ibaka. In their "Big Three" only James Harden played more than 20 minutes. They know these games don't really matter, but it's still important for their guys to get a chance to play. On the other side of things, the Jazz are already down Earl Watson and not Jamaal Tinsley. People are going to have to play, but I really don't expect Al Jefferson to do much in this game, And Paul Millsap is gone too for a personal reason.

Durant isn't going to get much burn either because, well, why would he. If the Core Four have it in them to work together and get a win, it very well could be tonight at home. That is, you know, unless they don't suck. It's in everyone's best interest to see Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks do well tonight. So you know that means Rand Foye will play 37 minutes. You know. Because Tyrone Corbin hates me.

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Word from the Badguys:

Yeah, I need to be more organized . . . hey it's my preseason too!

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X-Factors:

For OKC, because we're an inside / inside team, I have to say the X-Factors are going to be Perry Jones and Hasheem Thabeet. Against the Rockets they came off the bench to play just 32 combined minutes, but in that time had 18 points (9-13 shooting), 8 rebounds, 1 assist, and I'm sure they challenged a lot of shots. I have no doubt that our young bigs are better than theirs . . . but their young bigs are long.

Additionally, if Eric Maynor can have that revenge game he's always wanted, it could come tonight as I don't expect Russell Westbrook to play a lot.

For the Jazz the X-Factor could be outside shooting. You know, that thing OKC is going to give us as they pack the paint. This off-season the Jazz brought in guys to help in that regard. Teams will challenge our players -- and front office -- to see if we can make them. It could start tonight.

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As an aside:

I've always wondered how Matt Harpring's convo with his wife went after he found out he was traded to OKC. She's a well respected OB-GYN (IIRC) in the major hospital system in SLC. Right now we're trying to figure out where we're going to move to as @AllThatPreeti 's fellowship is ending in a few months. And it's a super pain in the you know what. I can only imagine Misses Harpring saying "you can go to OKC, but there's no way I'll be following you...". And that's not a comment about the hospitals there, it's a comment about how damn hard it is to get a good placement that fits your skills and talents. I'm thinking that convo with his wifey is why he's retired. He probably felt like he could still, maybe, play.

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Fearless Prediction:

Jazz win. Why? Because we're at home. And Gordon Hayward has a bounce back game. He can't shoot like he's in the playoffs anymore. Dude is due. And also: Shut up.

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