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Game Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz

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The new-look Thunder visit the already-injured Jazz for the first time this season.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

Once upon a time, a geriatric point guard named Jamaal Crawford hit a bunch of threes against the Jazz, and they lost. The end. But it wasn’t the end, because he did it over and over and over and over and over again.

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

That’s what happened last night, among other things. You can read about it here.

The Jazz don’t have time to lick their literal and figurative wounds, though. Tonight, the West’s second-most dominant super team rolls into the Aunt Viv, and they’re poised to do some damage.

Look, I don’t root for the Thunder because they’re a division rival and all that, but they’re pretty fun to watch. Russel Westbrook is an animal. Carmelo Anthony, free to space the floor instead of trying to be “the guy,” gets buckets. Paul George . . . well, we know Paul George is a good player, even though he has yet to find his groove in Oklahoma City.

As for the Jazz, they’ve been pretty fun to watch too. Sefolosha, Favors, Udoh, and Gobert are lockdown defenders. The question now is this: who scores? Rodney Hood is the primary bucket-getter on the team, but he’s out with a strained left calf. It’s hard to sugarcoat this one, folks: this one could be rough.

Game Info

When: Saturday, October 21st at 7:00pm MT

Where: Vivint Smarthome Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah

Radio: 1280 or 97.5 The Zone.

Television: AT&T SportsNet

Streaming: What’s a stream?

Injuries

Utah Jazz:

Dante Exum - OUT (shoulder)

Raul Neto - QUESTIONABLE (hamstring)

Rodney Hood - OUT (left calf strain)

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Raymond Felton - Sprained left wrist

Patrick Patterson - Knee surgery

What to Watch For

Russell Westbrook vs. Jazz Backcourt

NBA: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Rubio is a talented defender, but Russell Westbrook is simply in a league of his own. The key here is keeping him out of the paint. Last year, the Jazz beat Westbrook and the Thunder by forcing him to take mid-range jump shots rather than slashing to the rim as he is apt to do.

Even that won’t help as much as it used to, though, because now Westbrook has two targets to hit on the outside: Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

Rudy Gobert vs. Steven Adams

NBA: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The past two matchups have been difficult for the Stifle Tower. Nikola Jokic and Karl Anthony Towns are centers who like to space the floor and hang out on the perimiter. This draws Rudy out of the paint, where he is most comfortable. Now he’s facing Steven Adams, a bruiser who gets rebounds and plays back-to-the-basket. Both men are intensely competitive, so this one should be fun.

Shooting Guard Play Minus Hood

Welp, we’re gonna be without our starting SG for awhile. It seems that Donovan Mitchell and Alec Burks are going to have to pick up the slack and play more minutes. Can they make up for Hood’s production? Both players have proven that they can score, but neither had a great game last night. Hopefully they can bounce back tonight. The Jazz are gonna need every bucket to beat the Thunder.

Most Likely Jazz Killer

We all know that Russell Westbrook is good, but one big storyline that will play out tonight and throughout the season is that of the vaunted “Olympic Melo.” The idea is that instead of taking all the shots, Melo hangs out in his favorite spots and, well, spots up. Even if the Jazz lock down the interior, it’s highly possible that the Thunder’s inside-outside game will be lethal. If anyone besides Russ is a Jazz killer tonight, it’s Olympic Melo.