Tip-Off: 2 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
SF Gordon Hayward is having a fantastic season for the Utah Jazz. Hayward is averaging a career-high 22.5 points while shooting 47.0% from the field, 39.0% from three, and 86.2% from the free throw line. He is also averaging 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. However, in three games against the Thunder so far this season, Hayward has been held in check for the most part. He is averaging 17.7 points against Oklahoma City, and he has made only 41.7% of his shots from the floor, including only 31.3% of his three points attempts. Hayward is also only averaging 2.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds against the Thunder. Andre Roberson has done a fantastic job defending Hayward all season long, and he will need to continue that trend this afternoon.
Keys to the Game
- Power in the Paint: Oklahoma City and Utah are both teams that rely heavily on their interior play. Oklahoma City ranks 2nd in the NBA with 49.3 points in the paint, 2nd with 46.3 rebounds per game, and 4th with 41.2 opponent rebounds per game. Utah, however, ranks 7th with 40.8 opponent points in the paint and 2nd with 40.3 opponent rebounds. In the three matchups between the Thunder and the Jazz so far this season, Utah has dominated points in the paint by outscoring Oklahoma City by an average of almost 13 points. Steven Adams finally had a good game a few nights ago against the Spurs, and Enes Kanter loves playing his former team, so the Thunder bigs could put up some solid numbers today.
- Speed Up the Game: When it comes to tempo, Oklahoma City and Utah play at two very different tempos. The Thunder likes to get out and run the fast break as often as possible, which leads to scoring more points, while the Jazz like to slow things down and rely on their defense to win games. Oklahoma City is 3rd in the league with 17.3 fast break points per game, while Utah is 29th with 8.2 per game. Both teams are good at preventing teams from scoring in transition, though. Utah is 2nd allowing only 10.7 fast break points per game, while Oklahoma City is 5th allowing 11.2 per game. Through three meetings so far this season, the Thunder transition game has prevailed and outscored the Jazz by 14 fast break points per game. Oklahoma City will need to rely on its uptempo gameplay to force Utah into making adjustments on defense.
- Take Good Shots: Utah is 1st in the league in opponent scoring allowing only 96.2 points per game while holding their opposition to 44.0% shooting from the field (2nd in the NBA). Oklahoma City had its best outing against the Jazz just a couple of weeks ago as the Thunder shot 51.3% from the field and an incredible 15/22 (68.2%) from three. Utah is an extremely talented team, and their defense is relentless, so the Thunder needs to attack the rim for high-percentage shots and look for shots from deep to open up. The Thunder is not a talented 3-point shooting team making only 32.4% of their attempts (29th in the NBA), so they cannot expect to shoot as well as they did last time out against the Jazz.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.