Tip-Off: 8 PM CST
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
SF Gordon Hayward is a veteran leader of a young Utah Jazz team, and he carries out his role well. Hayward is currently averaging career highs in points averaging 23.3 per game and rebounds averaging 6.4 per game. He also averages 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Hayward is an excellent shooter, and he can be dangerous from behind the arc. Andre Roberson will likely be tasked with guarding Hayward, and stopping Hayward should be priority number one when it comes to the defensive end of the floor.
Keys to the Game
- Second Unit Success is absolutely essential tonight. Utah does not have a particularly strong second unit, much like Oklahoma City, so the Thunder needs to figure out who is going to lead the way coming off the bench. In extended minutes in last night’s blowout loss to the Trail Blazers, the bench only scored 38 points. More importantly, as soon as Russell Westbrook checked out in the first quarter, the defense seemed to fall apart. Backup players must step up to the challenge and simply play better if the Thunder wants to have a chance to win in Salt Lake City tonight.
- Control the Tempo: Utah is essentially the antithesis of Oklahoma City when it comes to moving the ball up and down the court. The Thunder likes to play fast while the Jazz like to slow things down. Oklahoma City ranks 3rd in the league in fast break points averaging 16.8 per game, but Utah ranks 1st in transition defense by only allowing 10.2 fast break points per game. If Russell Westbrook and company can get out and run with the ball, they can force Utah to get out of rhythm and catch them off guard.
- Own the Inside: Oklahoma City continues to rank 1st in the league in points in the paint, and despite their lack of inside scoring presence, Utah is solid when it comes to interior defense. The Thunder averages 50.4 points in the paint per game, but the Jazz only gives up 41.3 points in the paint per game. Utah C Rudy Gobert leads the league in blocked shots with 2.3 per game, which could make things difficult for a guy like Westbrook who likes to drive to the basket. With Victor Oladipo sitting with a sprained right wrist again tonight, Oklahoma City will need a solid outing from Steven Adams and the other Thunder bigs.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.