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Utah Jazz vs Oklahoma City Thunder Game Preview

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Game #13: Thunder (8-6) @ Jazz (6-6)
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
Time: 7:00 p.m. (MT)
TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The mighty Utah Jazz finally have been allowed to play at home, and will do so tonight for just the fourth time this season. (Clearly, the NBA has seen what they can do on the road and fear for their collective safety. Of course, #44United loyalists are preventing any changes to the schedule, save for any rush dates for future Garth Brooks concerts.) Dumb jokes aside (wait, what if we get rid of all the dumb jokes here what will be left?) the Jazz will be tipping off against the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is a classic battle between these two franchises that now appear to be the leaders in the Northwest division. Furthermore, both could end up with Top 4 seeds in the West. (Hey, it could happen!) So this game, their first of the season, will be the fire starter to a season long battle between the clubs.

Playing at home never was a problem for the team, it was the road that was. This season (and really, it started last season) the team seems to be growing up and finding a way to compete regardless of the color of their uniforms. A big change happened when the defense started to click, and Quin Snyder 's plans started to come to fruition. There is casual evidence that these things happened around the All-Star break last year. And around the All-Star break last year the team was part of a three team trade with the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder. Utah traded away a starer, a former lottery pick, and seemed to get better. And that starter was Enes Kanter.

The analytics tells us that this was an addition by subtraction, but that may be unfair to Enes who did play hard in a Jazz uniform. Though, the end results are what matters -- and not glossing over history or burnt bridges -- and the end results have been a re-tooled defense that wins at home on the road.

The Thunder benefited from this deal as well, and gaining a 23 year old post player who can rebound and score was something to applaud. Of course, in a lotto-bound year (due to the injuries sustained to Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and Kevin Durant) Kanter put up big numbers in many losses. This time around he's playing much less, but getting some important wins.

So we get a healthy Thunder (Durant is warming up and is a game-time decision) against a healthy Jazz (save for Dante Exum). These two teams, currently 1.0 games apart, play one another four times this season. Tonight is game one. And it's one that we hope the Jazz will win.

Westbrook and Durant are amazing. Serge Ibaka is solid if not occasionally spectacular. Dion Waiters is, uh, he's something else. And Steven Adams is a weapons grade agitant. It's going to be a tough game for the Jazz, but it's going to be a tough game for the Thunder as well. They are far from invincible (they've lost as many games has Utah has), and Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors form a defensive backbone that very few teams can boast. Gordon Hayward is ready to do battle, and his wingmen (Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, and Joe Ingles) can shoot with the best of them.

OKC has the stars, and I think that -- more than any issue at point guard -- will determine how this game is both adjudicated and played. I want the Jazz to win, but the Enes Kanter thing is such a small deal in the big picture. And I think our franchise is focused on that, not on every single guy who doesn't play for the team anymore.

GO JAZZ GO!