- When: Tuesday, 09 April 2013 at 8:00 PM CST
- Where: Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
One of the most dangerous things to face in the final week of a season is a team fighting to get into the playoffs. Their “win or go home” mentality surfaces with every game leading to the playoffs. Most playoff bound teams are on cruise control in the final week of the season. Some may be battling for playoff positioning, but if you are a team that has an end of alphabet letter (X,Y,Z) by your name in the standings, you’re usually pretty content. But for teams like the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers, or even, Dallas Mavericks, these final few games are their play-in games to get into the NBA post-season tournament.
I don’t know if the Oklahoma City Thunder are indifferent as to whether they get the No.1 seed in the Western Conference or not. Both the Thunder and San Antonio Spurs seem pretty content with their position in the conference, and are probably both confident they can win the conference whether they have home court advantage or not. With that said, the Thunder will be facing a desperate team trying to put space between themselves and the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot.
The Jazz come into the game surging, having won 7 of their last 8 games. With Mo Williams finally healthy and Derrick Favors beginning to live up to his potential, the Jazz seem to finally have found their groove. They’ve settled into a consistent rotation of 8-9 players that attacks with balanced offense (inside with Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, and Favors and on the wings with Williams, Gordon Hayward, and Alec Burks) and consistent work on the boards.
For the season, it has been a home court advantage type of series between these teams with the Thunder dominating their two games in Oklahoma City and the Jazz dominating in their one game in Salt Lake City.
Probable Starting Line-ups
- PG – Randy Foye
- SG – Mo Williams
- SF – Gordon Hayward
- PF – Paul Millsap
- C – Al Jefferson
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Thabo Sefolosha
- SF – Kevin Durant
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Kendrick Perkins
3 Keys to the Game
1. Control the paint – This is a team that the Thunder can actually sag off the shooters a bit and help out in the paint. The Jazz only make about 6.2 threes per game, which puts them in the bottom quarter of the league in 3-point makes per game. Kendrick Perkins has had a fair amount of success defending his former Boston battery mate, Al Jefferson. And Ibaka and Collison have had success against Millsap and Favors. But those three can collectively change the game with the rebounding ability and offensive production in the paint.
2. Shooters – As in, Oklahoma City shooters. Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha, Derek Fisher, and Ibaka should all be on high alert as they should receive their fair amount of opportunities to attempt open jumpers. The Jazz always have trouble defending Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Look for the Jazz to shade a defender over, leaving someone open on the perimeter.
3. Durant and Westbrook – Hey, no one on the Jazz can guard you guys. Begin CDI (Complete Dominance Initiative).