Well, here we are at the first of two match-ups within two weeks between the Utah Jazz and the previously daunting Oklahoma City Thunder. It's weird to play this team now that they are just mediocre and we are at the top of the Northwest division (again) this year. Although the team may be mediocre, we all know that their star player Russell Westbrook certainly is not. I have to admit that I like to watch Mr. Westbrook play and I am happy for him that he and his team are doing as well as they are, despite the fact that they have a player who shall remain nameless who can't help but break his arm on a chair for no good reason.
That being said, I am hoping that the Jazz do what they are supposed to and come in to establish who is the better TEAM. As much as I admire the Thunder, I believe they are a team in flux and if the Jazz are a team that wants to contend then they have to start showing that they can beat mediocre to good teams in the Western conference. Especially now that we are within the last 25 games of season.
The key to winning this game will be forcing Russell Westbrook to beat the Jazz by himself. Sure he is going to score and get his numbers, but he can't do it all by himself, so if they can stop the rest of the team they will have a great chance of coming away victorious.
These two franchises have had some great battles with great players over the years. In fact, going back to the Seattle days, I would say that Portland and Seattle were the Jazz's two biggest rivals in the 90's and into the 00's. I'm very fond of those Seattle games back in the day, even though they had a great team and they beat us a good portion of the time.
It's been kind of one sided since Kevin Durant and Westbrook came into the picture with the Thunder winning 22 out of 33 matches since the 08-09 season but historically the Jazz only trail 79-66 in the overall regular season series. The two teams have met in the playoffs 4 times between 1992-2000, with the Jazz winning twice and them getting the better of us twice. That includes one of the most memorable series in Jazz history with a trip to the Finals on the line in 1996, unfortunately the good guys came up short in that one.
More recently, we had some very competitive battles in the Deron Williams / Carlos Boozer / Mehmet Okur / Andrei Kirilenko days. Who can forget this gem of a game from a few years back:
I for one am looking forward to this game a great deal. I think the Jazz will pull off the win and do so convincingly to make up for that heartbreaking loss earlier in the year. The cherry on top will be if they can stop Russell Westbrook from getting a triple-double but I won't get too greedy as long as they can just pick up the win.