The Utah Jazz trudge on towards game four of five on this road trip -- and after three games they actually could have been 3-0 if they showed up in the first half of game one, right? They lost to the Chicago Bulls by playing poorly, beat the Milwaukee Bucks, and took care of business against the Houston Rockets, coming from almost 20 down to do so. They tip off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a battle between two of the best teams in the division. And by the Playoff standings today, two of the best teams in the Conference.
Utah will once again be without Dante Exum, Alec Burks, and Tibor Pleiss. But they have played nearly .500 ball without them and recently have turned it on. They have won two straight, six of their last seven, and seven of their last 10. They are one of the hottest teams in the conference -- but will be playing short handed once against to a team that's even hotter. Oklahoma will be without back-up wing Kyle Singler -- but they really don't need him. They have won five straight games, and seven of their last nine. They will look for win #50 tonight in front of their home fans. Utah will be looking for .500.
A large obstacle will be Russell Westbrook. In his last 10 games he has scored 20 or more points six different times, and has had six triple doubles -- including three in a row. For his career against the Jazz (25 games) he averages 22.6 / 5.0 / 6.0, while shooting .490 / .403 / .827. He has feasted on our squad his entire career and he's never been hotter. But tonight he will face off against Shelvin Mack, who is surely going to cool him off. Mack has been playing really well and been instrumental in many of our wins.
It's not an even battle, but it should be fun to watch.
The side-show will be Enes Kanter going up against his old club. (And/or Tibor Pleiss if he was with the team.) That's always fun, Trevor Booker seems to get in his head, but Enes has some good games against the team that drafted him. He almost had a 20/10 game last time he played the Jazz.
OKC plays a very fast game and are excellent on offense. The Jazz want to slow it down. If they can they could have a chance. These two teams split the season series last year, but this year OKC is 3-0 on our squad. For the record, the Jazz haven't been so good in their gym lately.
I'd love to be surprised tonight.