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Utah Jazz vs Oklahoma City Thunder: 5 Things to Watch

#tripledoublewatch and other basketball things

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz
Enes is a big man, but Rudy is bigger
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz (15-10) take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (15-10) today in a match-up for the Northwest Division title.

1. The Russell Westbrook Triple Double Saga

Russell Westbrook is currently averaging a triple double. Only the great Oscar Robertson has done this before (once, in the 1961-62 season), although he came close with (within 1.0 assists or rebounds) four times. This is ridiculous: as of yesterday, with 25 games played, he has 12 trip-dubs, including a seven game stretch in which he tied Michael Jordan’s record.

Unfortunately for the Jazz defense, George Hill is still out, and apparently Exum didn’t practice yesterday.

If Exum’s not ready to go, it’ll be up to Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto (gulp) to contain the Beastbrook, who additionally leads the league in scoring. Our mother page, SB Nation, has been keeping tabs on this story all season long. You can find that coverage here.

2. The Kanter Storyline

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

We all know about the Kanter trade and its repercussions. The Jazz barely got anything from that trade, even having to dump Tibor Pließ to the 76ers, but at least we didn’t have to sign the malcontent Kanter. He’s averaging 19 minutes per game this year after averaging about 27 in his last full season and a half with Utah. How’s that for an increased role? Now, his $70 million looks better in the context of the crazy market that’s out there now (thanks, Mozgov), but when your second most paid player can’t even crack 20 minutes a night off the bench, you’ve probably messed up.

His “vaunted” defense has gotten better over the years: dropping from a horrible Defensive Rating (DRtg) of 112 in the 2013-14 season, to 105 last season and 103 in this season. Perhaps he will prove us wrong tonight and claim his stake in revenge games, or Rudy and co. could continue their stifling dominance. Regardless, it feels good when this kind of thing happens, even though it’s one of the Rockets doing it:

3. Shooting Percentages

Amazingly, the Jazz have some of the best shooters in both 3 point field percentage and 2 point field percentage. Joe is shooting an amazing 48.4% (30/62) from three (and 54.5% from two), only bested by Courtney Lee’s 48.6% (35/72). Granted, Joe hasn’t been a volume shooter like other sharpshooters in the list (CJ McCollum, 47.1%, 74/157, 27 games; Mike Conley, 46.7%, 42/90, 17 games; Eric Gordon, 43.9%, 90/205, 25 games). With some combination of Hill, Hood, and Exum out, Jingling Joe will need to step up once again against the Thunder. Read more about him here. Also of note: Gordon Hayward is back to above league average (currently 35.4%) 3 point shooting after a hot stretch of 51.8% (14/27) over the last five games, with now making about 35.6% on 5 attempts per game.

The Jazz have been ON FIRE from downtown! Enjoy the Threes of the Week!

Posted by Utah Jazz on Monday, December 12, 2016

Rudy Gobert is also shooting a ridiculous 67.1% from the floor. That means he makes more than two out of every three shots! It’s more than almost 3 percentage points than DeAndre Jordan in second place, who is shooting 64.3%, and 9 percentage points more than Steven Adams, who is in fifth place with 58.4% of his shots made. Check out this detailed stat piece about Rudy in comparison to other NBA centers here. If the Jazz can continue to get good shots and play offense they way they’ve done it, we’ll definitely be on the path to success.

4. The Jazz are becoming less injured (sort of)

Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood should be back tonight! As Amar wrote, Faves likely be on a huge minutes restriction, and Hood probably won’t play as much as he normally does. This will be huge for a team that is missing Victor Oladipo, their second leading scorer. If Faves can lead the bench mob and dominate in the limited minutes he has, the Jazz have a great shot. A quick reminder of the awesome things he and Hood was doing last year around this team of the year:

5. The rest factor

The Jazz have had 4(!!) days off, having played their last game on Saturday, against the Kings. In that time, the won a close one against the Celtics at home on Sunday before getting blown out at the Trailblazers yesterday. They fly into Utah to play today. Despite the injuries, the Jazz have the definite rest advantage, so hopefully Quin Snyder can get our team up and running and out-hustle the Thunder into a win.

Go Jazz Go!