The Oklahoma City Thunder look to win the season series between these two teams with a win tonight at home against the Utah Jazz. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and crew won in Utah in Game 13 111-89, and won in Utah in Game 21 94-90. Now the stage is set for OKC to wrap it up at home in Game 22, where they are 10-3 so far this season. (Sadly, they are only 5-5 on the road, with two of those five wins happening in Utah.) (Even more sadly, they only have played 10 road games, what kind of sorcery is this?) Oklahoma currently rests at the top of the North West division, and are number three in the Western Conference. A win tonight would go a long way towards making sure that the second best team in the division will never catch them.
Of course, the other side of the coin is that, well, it's hard to win both games in a home and home series, even if you are the better team. I've rarely seen this happen, especially when the Jazz are concerned. We've seen the Jazz fall to 1-1 against the Sacramento Kings in this exact same situation, while stealing a 1-1 record in a home and home series against the San Antonio Spurs. History tells me that it's possible. It's going to be hard as the team continues to play without two starters: Rudy Gobert and Dante Exum.
I'm currently dying of some sort of space disease so I don't even know if I will be alive by the time this game starts, but I'm going to spend the rest of my time on this damn planet with you damn dirty apes by not writing a game preview.
Well, maybe one more paragraph.
Years later I think we see the benefit of grooming stars for your team. The "OKC Model" or whatever put the best players on the floor at a young age and gave them lots of minutes. Westbrook, Durant, and Serge Ibaka all seemed to have worked out. Jeff Green is on another team, and bounced around, but seems fine. Also, there were also largely responsible for making James Harden very dangerous as well. They made stars, and stars drive the league's economy. These stars also win games and get to the playoffs.
So many teams are trying to do a "San Antonio Spurs" model that's defense first, and keeps everyone's minutes low, but that only worked because they HAD stars on that team with David Robinson and Tim Duncan. The wise old moderation method didn't start working until AFTER their first title in '99. We are very keen on forgetting that the Spurs weren't always perfect, errorless, machines. Let's not forget that Tim Duncan played 3204 minutes as a rookie. Or that he went for over 3k in four of his first six seasons (one he missed with 2.8k minutes, the other he missed was because of a 50 game season).
I think the Jazz are erring too close to the moderation method without first establishing WHY the other teams, the marketing machine, or the refs, need to respect our guys. OKC doesn't have a championship, but they've done a number of things right for a small market franchise that started from zero and has since (when healthy) dominated at least the division for nearly a decade.
There are yet things our Jazz can learn from other franchises, not just the Spurs. Every time we play the Thunder I am reminded of the power of star players getting big minutes in their physical peaks.