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Utah Jazz visit OKC Thunder as they aim to gain ground in standings

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Can Utah put it’s defensive stamp on tonight’s game and slow down Oklahoma City’s two All Stars?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball is back! More specifically Utah Jazz basketball returns tonight with a formidable challenge against a tough opponent in the OKC Thunder (37-20) tonight.

The Utah Jazz suffered a heartbreaking, though not entirely unexpected loss at Golden State in their final game before the all star break. It was good to see the team fight until the very end but there are no moral victories at this point in the season. The Jazz sit in a good position for the stretch run at 6th in the western conference, but need every win they can get to stay there.

That might prove tricky against a Thunder team that has made life difficult for the Jazz in the first two meetings this season, with the Thunder edging the Jazz by one point in Salt Lake City back in December. The Jazz have been playing at a much higher level since that last meeting though, winning 13 of their last 16 games. The challenge for the Jazz will be to slow down Paul George who is having an MVP like season and seems to be the key to Oklahoma City’s consistency this season.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder also signed versatile forward Markieff Morris over the all star break but it remains to be seen if he will debut against the Jazz according to Thunder coach Billy Donovan.

The Thunder are also returning from the all star break after suffering a loss at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans on Valentine’s Day. It was an uncharacteristic loss for them, as they had won 5 of their previous 6 games. Not only is star forward Paul George playing great, so is all star Russell Westbrook, who has achieved a triple double in 10 straight games averaging 21.9 points 13.3 rebounds and 13.5 assists per game. That streak just eclipsed Wilt Chamberlain’s streak of 9 straight for the NBA record of most consecutive triple doubles. When both George and Westbrook are on, the Thunder are a hard team to stop offensively even for a great defensive team like the Jazz.

It will be interesting to see how both of these teams respond after a long layoff. The intensity and intrigue will not be lacking as both of these teams should know how important this game really is, but I think the biggest challenge for both teams will be to avoid sloppy play and unnecessary turnovers which can lead to frustration setting in, especially for the road team. We will hopefully get a hard fought, entertaining Utah Jazz win!


Game Info

When: Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 • 7:30 PM MT

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena • Oklahoma City, OK

TV: ESPN, AT&T Sports Net – Rocky Mountain

Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone

Injuries:

Utah Jazz:

Dante Exum – Left Ankle Sprain – OUT

Tony Bradley – Right Knee Surgery – OUT

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Markieff Morris — Neck — Questionable

Jerami Grant — Ankle — Questionable

Dennis Schroder - Personal - Questionable


What to watch for

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Battle of the Brains

This game will be a battle from the coaching perspective. Quin Snyder is a smart coach and we don’t see other teams beat the Jazz 3 or 4 times in a row. Obviously when there is a talent disparity there is only so much that the coach can do but it will be very interesting to see how coach Quin game plans against the Thunder. Especially now that the Jazz are playing better on defense than they were earlier in the season.

I am interested to see if they can frustrate and slow down Paul George like they did in the playoffs last year. Coach Billy Donovan of the Thunder is doing a great job this season as well and so I expect the Thunder to be ready to slow down the Jazz with their great defense also. Who will win this battle of the coaching wills?