It’s hard to believe the Utah Jazz will have played the OKC Thunder 4 times on the season by the end of today. The Jazz won the first matchup (the third game of the season) 96-87, but lost the last two (both in December) 94-100 and 79-107 (ouch).
The most recent loss was something to behold. Utah looked like a bunch of randos playing in a rec league, and OKC looked like a basketball team. The Jazz offense went something like this:
Those of you who remember YuccaMan during the Tyrone Corbin years will remember this MS Paint gem. The good news for the Jazz is that the offense looked MUCH better the other night against the San Antonio Spurs. Guys were getting to their spots, the movements were crisp, the turnovers were fewer, and the shots fell. The key to the offense not failing, especially when Donovan Mitchell is hurt, is Ricky Rubio. No, here me out—if Ricky can simply NOT turn the ball over, the Jazz stay competitive.
That being said, here is yet another piece of good news:
He may not be quite as explosive as he was pre-injury, but he’ll provide some much needed scoring, likely off the bench.
When: Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017 • 6:00 PM MT
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 1280 and 97.5 The Zone, WWLS 98.1FM OKC
Rudy Gobert - Knee (PCL sprain) - Out again :( to be re-evaluated near the end of the year
Dante Exum - Shoulder - Out indefinitely
Raul Neto - Concussion Protocol - Out
Donovan Mitchell - Toe - Probable
None! What it must feel like to have a perfectly healthy team...
What To Watch For:
The OKC Big 3
For all the woes that were broadcast about the OKC big three earlier in the season, they seem to be pulling it together, with 62.2 points, 21.0 rebounds, and 13.8 assists per game collectively over their last five games. A lot of that is Russell Westbrook - especially the assists, but they seem to be gelling a bit more. To be fair, the numbers still aren’t pretty, with Westbrook, PG, and Carmelo averaging 41.1%, 40.3%, and 40.4% shooting on the season, but they all have the ability to become killer hot at any point. Paul George can rely on his defense, Carmelo Anthony is always a mismatch at the power forward position, and Russell is Russell. Will eventually they come together like the Heatles? Hopefully not tonight against the Jazz.
Both teams are good defensively, with ratings of 101.2 (3rd) and 103.4 (7th) for OKC and Utah respectively, and bad-to-awful on offense - 103.2 (20th) and 104.8 (13th). They both have players who are defensive aces (Jingling Joe, Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh, Paul George, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams) but also have players that can get red hot (Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Carmelo Anthony, Russell). This will be a gritty battle if Utah can get its ducks in a row against the big three. Otherwise, look for another possible blowout.
Most Likely Jazz-Killer: Russell Westbrook
To be clear, Russell isn’t doing too hot - he has the same True Shooting Percentage as Ricky Rubio this season (45.1%). But he hit this ridiculous winning shot against the Atlanta Hawks last night, and is still averaging 23/10/10 (rounding up) on the season. He led the OKC big three with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists, last time around, so look for the Jazz to try to contain him in addition to the rest of the big three.
In the past five games, the Jazz have played the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs. Their record? 2-3. That’s honestly not horrible for this team in this condition during this part of the schedule. Tonight, they have a chance to go 3-3. Anything can happen.
GO JAZZ GO!