- When: Tuesday, 18 November 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
- Where: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
At the beginning of the season, you would’ve needed an alternate universe to imagine a scenario where the Utah Jazz would have a better record than the Oklahoma City Thunder through 11 games. But, alas, through a series of unfortunate events, here we stand today. The Thunder are battling and doing whatever necessary to stay in games. Whether it’s muddying up the game or getting hot at the right time, the Thunder have been competitive in every game this season, sans one. Unfortunately, staying in the game is completely different than actually winning the game. And that is where the Thunder are struggling right now. If coffee is for closers, then the only one on the team even sniffing a Starbucks gift card is Reggie Jackson. The Thunder have to start finding a way to finish out these close games.
This is the first of 4 meetings between these Northwest Division opponents. The Thunder won 3 of 4 meetings with the Jazz last season, winning by an average of 18.3 points. Also, not that it means much, but the Thunder defeated the Jazz 88-82 in the preseason.
The Jazz come into the game with a 4-7 record. They rank in the bottom third of the league in points scored, points allowed, rebounds, and defensive rating. Surprisingly, though, they rank in the top ten in offensive rating. The Jazz are in the second phase of their rebuild. A lot of their young players from the past few seasons are either coming up on extension or have already signed their first extension. At this point, improvements and jumps will probably be expected. Point guard Trey Burke leads the Jazz’s attack. While still young, Burke has shown a knack for breaking down defenses and causing havoc in the lane. His backcourt mate, Alec Burks has started to show the consistency that has been missing in his first 3 seasons. Gordon Hayward, who signed a max deal this offseason, is settling into his role as the leader of the team. Averaging 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, Hayward is quickly becoming one of the better all around players in the game. Up front, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter provide the Jazz with a big, mobile front line they hope will one day mimic the front line of Memphis. Off the bench, the Jazz play the rookie trio (Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, and Joe Ingles), along with Rudy Gobert and Trevor Booker.
Probable Starting Line-ups
- PG – Trey Burke
- SG – Alec Burks
- SF – Gordon Hayward
- PF – Derrick Favors
- C – Enes Kanter
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Reggie Jackson
- SG – Jeremy Lamb
- SF – Andre Roberson
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Steven Adams
3 Keys to the Game
1. Control the boards – The Jazz are a lot like the Detroit Pistons in that they aren’t very efficient at shooting, but have the necessary bigs to grab offensive boards. Kanter, Favors, and Gobert are extremely active up front, and can gobble up rebounds if given the opportunity.
2. Turnovers and Transition – The Jazz play at the second slowest pace in the league and try to limit their turnovers. But with such a young roster, they still average about 14 per game. If the Thunder can force a few more turnovers and get the Jazz running, they may exploit a style of play the Jazz aren’t comfortable with.
3. Take advantage of the rookies – The Jazz play their three rookies at least 15 minutes a game. If the Thunder want to take advantage of the experience factor, this would be the time to impose their will.