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Utah Jazz vs Oklahoma City Thunder: 5 things to watch

Will Russell Westbrook score a ton of points or just a lot?

NBA: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Riding a four game winning streak, The Utah Jazz (41-24) take on the Oklahoma City Russell Westbrooks Thunder (36-29) today. Hoping to strengthen their hold on the four seed in the Western Conference playoff picture, here are five things to watch for.

It’s early!

Playing at 3:00 EST, the Jazz will be playing the earliest game of their season. In games that start at 5:00 EST or earlier, the Jazz are 1-2 with the single win the OT thriller in Sacramento that we had no business winning. But we did because we have Odin the Viking God Rudy Gobert on our team.

I for one enjoy the earlier tip offs, but it doesn’t look like the Jazz do. Does it throw off routines or sleep patterns? Does it cut into important League of Legends time for Gordon Hayward? Whatever it is that has caused the Jazz to struggle in early games they’ll have to find the energy because today they face Russell Westbrook who is a cyborg that never tires.

Russell Westbrook Insanity

In the last three games against the Jazz, Westbrook has averaged 36 PPG and is 2-1 against us. In our lone win against the Thunder, Westbrook shot 7/25 (28%) from the field. In our two losses he shot 11/29 (38%) and 13/28 (46%). Basically, expect a lot of shots from Westbrook.

It’s easy to see why people enjoy Westbrook, he’s an unreal athlete and absolutely electric in transition .The amount of triple doubles he’s gotten this season is remarkable. But what’s even more amazing to me is how many shots he’s allowed to take, even though he’s shooting 42% from the field and 33% from three this season. It’s just not efficient. The Jazz have to find a way to force Westbrook into pull-up midrange jump shots, especially from 3-10 feet where he’s shooting 26% this season (according to basketball reference), and away from transition where Westbrook is lethal.

Joe Johnson vs. Derrick Favors

Against the Rockets, the Jazz offense was rolling with Joe Johnson starting at the power forward. It’s clear that when the Jazz have a player who can spread the floor at the four spot, their offense goes to another level.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It’ll be very interesting to see what Quin does to juggle Derrick Favors and Joe Johnson the rest of this season and during the playoffs. It will surely have to do with matchups on a nightly basis. Quin also has to be careful with minutes for both players. Johnson, being a 16 year veteran, is not going to be effective in the playoffs if he plays too many minutes during the regular season. On the other hand, Favors, according to his twitter feed, has been playing on one leg because of injuries and can’t play too many minutes either.

It’s a crazy tightrope for Snyder and one we need to keep an eye on not just for this game, but for the rest of the season.

Who starts at Point Guard?

Resting a sore toe, George Hill has missed the last two games. The Jazz have Dante Exum who seems to be slowly figuring things out, but has struggled this season against high level guards. Last time the Jazz played the Thunder, Dante was a -9 in +/- and only played 7:39.

In our last game against the Rockets and James Harden, Dante only played 9:00 and had to be benched early for foul trouble.

The best option for the Jazz is for George Hill to start, but if he can’t it’ll be Exum. Whether he starts or not, it will be critical for Dante to find ways to slow down Westbrook without getting into foul trouble and sending Brodie to the line.

Can the Jazz make it five in a row?!

I want a big win streak, Jazz. Give me a five finger streak!