Contain Russell Westbrook
My Scouting Report: Preventing Russell Westbrook from turning into a basketball super-mutant is the recipe for success against the Thunder. Due to the rebuilding roster around the MVP candidate, Westbrook is forced to do a lot for his squad. He’s averaging 30.6 points, 10.4 assists, 10.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals. The Thunder are on a slight skid, and have gone 4-6 in the month of January. Teams are trying to limit Westbrook’s shots at the rim and pressuring him into making turnovers. This month, he’s shooting 30.8% from beyond the arc and averaging 6 turnovers per game. The Jazz need to keep these statistics in mind while on defense. If they allow Westbrook to have his way in the paint, we could see this game stolen away.
Force OKC to shoot from the outside
I mentioned Russell Westbrook’s woes from the outside in the last point, but his teammates aren’t faring much better. Players on the Thunder roster who are shooting atleast two three-point shots per game at a 34% or greater clip, lists as follows: Domantas Sabonis (36.4%), Alex Abrines (37.2%) and Victor Oladipo (37.3%). Not great, Bob. The Thunder are 29th in the NBA in three-point percentage at 32.5%. Crowd the paint, fellas.
Point guard or triple-wing?
The role of backup point guard is up for grabs between Shelvin Mack, Dante Exum and Raul Neto. Coach Snyder has been in search for a backup point guard who can show some consistency on the defensive side of the ball, and the search hasn’t gone smoothly. Raul Neto was the latest to be tried out in the second unit, but with the #ReturnofAB, Quin has been trying out the triple-wing experiment. Will Quin Snyder continue his backup PG carousel, or will we see the triple-wing lineup when George Hill needs a break?
Gobert vs. Adams matchup?
Steven Adams is questionable for today’s game with concussion symptoms, but if Adams clears the league’s concussion protocol, the matchup between the two centers will be one to watch. Big centers who like to get into the body of Gobert (think Valanciunas) tend to nullify some of his shot blocking prowess, which is exactly what Adams would be looking to do. Utah Jazz fans think the world of Gobert, as do Thunder fans for Adams. These two young centers could be battling for big man dominance for years to come. I’ll take our guy, though. #TakefnNote
If Adams is ruled out, Gobert could be matched up against Domantes Sabonis or ex-jazzman, Enes Kanter.
The later into the season we get, the more important every conference game becomes. The Jazz have a chance to move 4.5 games ahead of the Thunder with a win. Also, if the Chris Paul-less Clippers lose to the Atlanta Hawks, the Jazz may become the 4th seed in the West after tomorrow. WHOA.