The Utah Jazz are in Oklahoma City tonight, taking on the Thunder in what could be a preview of a potential playoff series.
From here on out, every single game is important for the Utah Jazz. That’s especially true tonight, as they look to take control of the season series vs the Oklahoma City Thunder and also maintain control of the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
If the Jazz lose tonight, the Thunder will move up to fourth in the Western Conference standings, while the Jazz will move down to fifth. Oklahoma City is no joke, playing cool, calm and collected all season long with a poker face.
The season series is split 1-1 right now. Utah won the first meeting between these two teams, which was on opening night. The Thunder took the other game, and in convincing fashion. That was in early December, and was one of Utah’s worst losses to date.
Both of those games were played at home in Utah. The next two will be in Oklahoma City, giving the Thunder a big advantage, given their history of home dominance.
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The Thunder do, though, have a better record on the road this season. Do with that as you will.
One thing that will come into play is the availability of Utah’s All-Star center, Rudy Gobert. He did not participate in shootaround and is questionable to play due to an illness. Tony Jones of The Athletic said that the team is “at least mentally prepared” to play without him tonight.
Playing without their best player will lower Utah’s odds of winning this one, but it’s something that they’ll have to work around. We’ll get an update on his availability later on tonight.
Regardless, this is going to be a battle for the Jazz. Oklahoma City is coming off a signature win in Boston, while the Jazz are coming off a tough loss to Toronto. Both teams are motivated for this massive game.
If you’re evaluating Utah’s potential playoff match-ups, Oklahoma City might be the more favorable opponent. I would stand behind that statement, but that doesn’t mean it would be an easy series.
Going up against Chris Paul again in the playoffs would be scary. They have a rising superstar talent in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rugged big in Steven Adams and great perimeter shooting with guys like Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder.
Containing Paul has always been an issue for the Jazz. He gets to his spot off the pick-and-roll and constantly hurts Utah with his mid-range shooting. Gobert doesn’t like to leave the rim and often gets stuck in no man’s land.
Oklahoma City is well coached, they defend at a high level and have a different player that can hurt you on any given night. Like I said, they may be preferred over the likes of Denver and Houston, but it’s still quite a challenge.
Tonight’s game should be treated like a playoff game. This is a must-win for the Utah Jazz, and a must-win for the Oklahoma City Thunder. These are two fun teams to watch and I can’t wait for the battle.
Tip-off is at 6:00 MT. Be sure to tune in to what could be the biggest game of the season thus far. Go Jazz!