Friday, November 7, 2008

Thunder vs. Utah Jazz: Pre-game primer

Oklahoma City Thunder (1-3) vs. Utah Jazz (4-0)
Friday, November 7
Energy Solutions Center
Salt Lake City, Utah
8:00 p.m. CST

TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
OKC hits the road for the second time this year, traveling to maybe the toughest place to win in the entire league. Last season, the Jazz went 37-4 at home. That's incredible.
Tonight, Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan is looking for win 1,000 with the Jazz. Amazing. I just want to applaud Sloan. He is the anti-Larry Brown. He has stuck with the Jazz and the Jazz has stuck with him. There's been no knee jerk, "Fire this man!" overreaction after a sub-par season. Utah has stayed the course with Sloan and is being rewarded by it. Bravo Utah. Bravo. Now fire P.J. Carlesimo. Just kidding.
What to watch for:
Will Coach Carlesimo mix up his rotation again tonight? Last time the Thunder went on the road, he played just nine and Damien Wilkins never stepped on the floor. Against Boston, guard Kyle Weaver was mixed in early and played well in limited minutes. How will he be used tonight or will he be used at all? Russell Westbrook has played well this season - will he see more than 21 minutes tonight? Will Kevin Durant snap out of his offensive funk and put up some points? All these answers and more, tonight! Thunder. Jazz. The NBA on TNT! Sorry, it just felt like I was building up some great pregame promo there. Seriously though, I'm curious about the way Peej uses the bench. Westbrook needs more minutes, I've been over that. Why not try and let him open up the game tonight? Let him run loose and see if he can get Kid Delicious some open looks and maybe get him in a rhythm early. Why not? Joe posted a great comment on my Durant story about how OKC really isn't a jump shooting team - the Thunder's a group that needs ball movement and slashing. That's the way guys like Jeff Green and Desmond Mason will score. And that's what Westbrook can bring.
In order to win... Oklahoma City's offense will have to start clicking. So far through four games, the Thunder has averaged only 83.8 points per game, which is good for last in the league. They haven't topped 90 yet this year. And it doesn't help that the Jazz are one of the top best defensive teams in the league, holding opponents to just 85.5 ppg. So that means one of two things: OKC will have to play out of its mind offensively tonight or OKC will have to play out its mind defensively tonight. Translated: There's no room for the Thunder to do both just average. OKC can't have a decent offensive night and a decent defensive night. It's going to have to do one or the other to its top ability to have a chance. The Jazz offense is averaging 97.4 ppg (without superstar Deron Williams) and while that's not great by any means, that's still 14 points more a game than OKC. I realize there's been quite a commitment to defense this season. We've been over that. But you've got to score some points. At least more than 83 a game.
Just like with the Celtics game, all the little things need to go your way. Loose balls, free throws, rebounding, limiting second chances. Basically, those things are a given in any NBA game. But they are especially stressed for an overmatched team. It helps that Deron Williams isn't playing but Utah is still good regardless.
Prediction: Honestly, for some unknown reason I feel really good about tonight. I feel bold. But come on, not that bold. Bold like the Thunder will play well tonight. It would be a little overzealous to predict a win at a place that nobody wins at, but I think the Thunder snaps out of its offensive funk and scores some points tonight. As mentioned, it's obvious the Jazz play good defense. But Durant played his best game of this young season on the road in Houston (26 points) and I feel he'll bounce back with a strong offensive game tonight. Mainly because as mentioned before, I think Peej is going to play Westbrook more which I think will help Durant. Not enough as though as the Jazz are simply just better. Jazz 103, Thunder 97.

1 comment:

Joe said...

AK 47 is a game time decision. He is banged up. Hope he doesn't play.