One of the mildly surprising storylines this season has been the clunky play of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their Big Three seems formidable on paper, as Russel Westbrook, Paul George and, yes, Carmelo Anthony are all incredibly talented. However, their team sits at a mediocre 15-15, just one more win than the 14-17 Utah Jazz have.
MyLo and I wrote the other night that if the Jazz could get off the mat that they’d have a decent chance of winning this one. Well . . .
It’s gonna be hard to get off the mat without Donovan Mitchell, okay? Derrick Favors will help, because the team sorely missed him in their matchup against Houston, but missing three out of the six guards in their rotation—and arguably Utah’s best scorer—could end up being rough. Tonight will be a night for Utah’s depth to show what they’re made of.
When: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 6:00 PM MT
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain
Radio: 1280 and 97.5 The Zone
Donovan Mitchell - Questionable (Right Great Toe Contusion)
Derrick Favors - Probable (Concussion)
Raul Neto - Questionable (Concussion)
Rudy Gobert - OUT (Knee)
Dante Exum - OUT (Shoulder)
Steven Adams - Day-to-day (Concussion)
What to watch for:
Rodney Hood and other veterans
With Donovan out, Utah will need others to pick up the scoring slack. That automatically makes me turn to Rodney Hood and Alec Burks for an answer. Ricky Rubio needs to put up 13-17 points as well. If Derrick Favors is able to play, and Steven Adams isn’t, that could be just what Utah needs to give them some sort of advantage in this one. Guys who have been in the league for a while, like Jonas Jerebko, Joe Johnson, Ricky Rubio, etc. bring a sense of stability when they are on the court. Hopefully that will be enough to put Utah in a position to win this one. Against a division rival, a win here would be extremely valuable in the jockeying for playoff positioning come April.
Who plays backup PG?
With Donovan, Raul and Dante all out, that effectively rids Utah of all of their current backup point guards. Most likely, we will see Quin Snyder play Alec Burks as the backup point guard, but we might see some other rotation changes. It is possible Utah will play a guy like Joe Ingles next to Alec to help facilitate the offense. With different rotations, we might see a bit more of one of my personal favorite surprises this season, Royce O’Neale.
Most likely Jazz-Killer: Andre Roberson
Andre Roberson will likely have more of an impact tonight, as Utah will not have as many offensive threats on the floor. Andre will have room to entirely key in on Rodney Hood and make life hard on him. He can also switch onto whomever else turns out a hot shooting night to slow them down. One of OKC’s big three is bound to get hot at some point, but Andre Roberson’s defense is really what I think could potentially kill the Jazz.
All in all, with a game like this, the Jazz just have to give themselves the best shot possible to win, and then take whatever comes their way. The Jazz are out-gunned and outnumbered, but under-dogs always bite harder. This might not be the prettiest game, but something tells me the Jazz players wouldn’t have it any other way.