Tag Archives: Utah Jazz

Scoreboard Watching: The Traffic Jam


With the All-Star weekend in Los Angeles ending, I think it’s quite apropos to look at the Western Conference standings as we head into the unofficial second half of the season and see a giant traffic jam. Eight teams are within 4.5 games of each other, with the bottom two teams in that mix likely ending up as lottery teams instead of playoff teams.

This has always been the major difference between the Western Conference and Eastern Conference over the past decade. The East is top heavy (usually just one or two teams – many of those teams usually involving some guy named LeBron James), while the West has a lot more depth, team-wise. It hasn’t been rare over the past decade for the eighth seed in the East to be at or below .500, while the West eighth seed has to win at least 45 games to get in. While that disparity seems to be improving, there is still a visible gap between the two conferences. Continue reading Scoreboard Watching: The Traffic Jam


NTTB Podcast (Episode 18) – Growing Pains

IMG_4109On Episode 18 of the NTTB podcast,we discuss the following topics:

  • Knicks game recap
  • Jazz game recap
  • Preview the Timberwolves game
  • Worrisome trends
  • What’s up with Westbrook
  • Inconsistent refs
  • NBA news

Intro/Outro music provided by OSC Productions

Thank you for listening. We will be doing a podcast once a week. If you have any Thunder or NBA related questions, make sure you hit us up on Twitter (@alexroig_NTTB or @Montero_A13).

We are on ITunes under the NTTB Podcast. Make sure you leave us a 5-star review if you can. As always, Thunder Up!

Thunder vs. Jazz preview (Game 2 of 82)

utah jazz vs. okc logo

  • When: Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 8:00 pm CST
  • Where: Vivent Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
  • TV: FSOK
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: OKC -4.5 | O/U – 200

There was a point in the Thunder vs. Knicks game with around four minutes left in the 2nd quarter where the score was tied at 40. You could tell there was a nervousness in the arena, wondering if this Big 3 experiment was going to work. Then, the Thunder finally woke up and went on a 22-6 run that essentially put the game away.

It was eye-opening because there are going to be a lot of nights like this for the Thunder. The Knicks are not a top-tier team at all and will likely have one of the worst defenses in the league this season. But seeing the team turn it on and nitrous boost their way past the Knicks in an 8 minutes span was positive in many ways.  Continue reading Thunder vs. Jazz preview (Game 2 of 82)

Sifting through the rubble: A Thunder trading deadline postscript

jackson perkins thunder

From the time I woke up on February 19th to about 1:30 PM CST, I was almost certain that a certain Brooklyn Nets 7-footer would be a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Speculation was abound that the Thunder and Nets had rekindled talks revolving around Brook Lopez, Kendrick Perkins, and Reggie Jackson. All the information leading up to about 12:30 PM CST was that it was basically a done deal and that the Nets were awaiting Oklahoma City’s approval. Then the chatter stopped.

Trades usually come at you one of two ways. The first way is like the trade in which the Thunder acquired Dion Waiters. It comes at you in an instant and you barely have time to react. The second way is like the Brook Lopez (non)trade. You hear the rumors and speculation leading up to the trade, and usually it gets done after that. But sometimes, the chatter stops prompting one of two thoughts: either the teams are working on the specifics of the deal or the deal has completely fallen through. In the case of Brook Lopez, it was the latter.

The rumors started that the Thunder were doing their due diligence and were looking at all their options. Around 1:45 PM CST, Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Reggie Jackson had been traded to the Detroit Pistons. Apparently the Jackson move was the linchpin that was holding everything back in the league. Once Jackson was dealt, all hell broke loose. About 30 players were traded in a 10 minute span leading to the trading deadline. The trade deadline literally napalmed the entire league. And these weren’t end of the bench players. These were former All-Stars, talented players on rookie deals, a former Rookie of the Year, and game-changers. This trade deadline was definitely worth it.

When all the dust settled, four new players were slated to be in Thunder uniforms, while four others became former Thunder players. Here’s an overview of the two deals the Thunder made at the deadline.

Deal 1:

  • Oklahoma City received Enes Kanter and Steve Novak from Utah and DJ Augustin, Kyle Singer, and a 2019 2nd round pick from Detroit.
  • Utah received Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett, the draft rights to Tibor Pleiss, and a 2017 lottery protected 1st round pick from Oklahoma City and a 2017 2nd round pick from Detroit.
  • Detroit received Reggie Jackson

The Jackson deal was actually a 3 team deal that also involved Kendrick Perkins and little used rookie forward Grant Jerrett. Jackson let his intentions be known at the end of last season and at training camp this season, that his main goal was to be a starter in the league. With Russell Westbrook in tow and Oklahoma City’s penchant for starting defensive minded, normal sized SG’s, the Thunder were never in a position to acquiesce to Jackson’s demands. As the trading deadline drew closer, Jackson’s agent, Aaron Mintz, asked the team to trade his client. From all the accounts, the locker room chemistry between Jackson and his teammates (specifically Kevin Durant and Westbrook) was reaching a boiling point of which there would be no returning from. The Thunder had to get a deal done and Detroit (and Utah) offered them the best deal in terms of known commodities.

dj augustin kyle singler pistons

I will say this. It was kind of hard to see Perkins go. On a team full of hares, Perkins was the tortoise. I know he was the bane of a lot of Thunder fans’ existences, but his effects on the team will be felt for years to come. He was the big brother on the team and he relished that role. When the younger players (to include Durant and Westbrook) had a bad day, they would usually turn to Perkins for advice. He was the protector of the inner sanctum. Only team members and a select few were allowed in their locker room (I’m looking at you, Joakim Noah). He made the team better defensively (don’t argue, just look up the stats), and toughened them up. Did he have his flaws? Of course. But he also personified the qualities that you and I take into our 9 to 5’s, and I for one, appreciated it.

Deal 2:

  • Oklahoma City received a protected 2016 2nd round pick from New Orleans.
  • New Orleans received Ish Smith, the draft rights to Latavious Williams, a 2015 protected 2nd round pick from Oklahoma City, and cash considerations.

The Thunder made this move to clear a roster spot for the incoming new players. The Thunder could have waived Smith, but his salary would have counted towards their final salary number of the team. With the team already being over the luxury tax, they didn’t want to add to the total amount they would have to pay to the league. Instead, New Orleans stepped in and took on Smith, who was subsequently waived.

When I look at the players the Thunder acquired, one word resonates in my mind: balance. This is the most balanced team the Thunder has ever yielded. You could argue that the 2011-12 team that made it to the NBA Finals was more balanced, but this team is more experienced. In the end, the Thunder lost a good player in Jackson and a team leader in Perkins, but got back so much more in depth and balance. The Thunder got back a true back-up point guard that can shoot, two sharp-shooters, and an offensively adept center that is only 22 years of age. In short, the Thunder got better.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz preview (Game 16 of 82)

Jackson Adams thomas Thunder hayward jazz

  • When: Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

This latest stretch for the Oklahoma City Thunder has been a lot like the life of a career convict. Go to jail, get out, and do the same things to get put back in. For the Thunder, its been fall behind early, fight like hell to get back in the game, and eventually lose a close one at the end due to lack of offensive execution/weaponry. Well, this may be the final game for this Reggie Jackson-led group to win a game. With Russell Westbrook, and possibly Kevin Durant, available for Friday’s game against the New York Knicks, the heavy cavalry may be on its way with reinforcements.

This will be the second meeting of the year between these Northwest Division rivals. The Jazz beat the Thunder 98-81 in Salt Lake City over a week ago. The Thunder jumped out early in that game, leading 23-14 after the first quarter. But eventually, the Jazz wore out the Thunder in the next 3 quarters, using their depth and their size inside.

The Opponent

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz

The Jazz come into the game with a 5-10 record, riding a 3 game losing streak in tonight’s game. Their last win came against the Thunder. The Jazz remind me of the young Thunder teams from years past, in that its a bunch of young guys coming up together and learning as a collective. Some of the more veteran Jazz players (and by veteran, I mean 3 years in the league or more) are just now starting to enter their primes and their games are starting to blossom. Gordon Hayward is slowly becoming that go-to scorer, Derrick Favors is a double-double waiting to happen, and Alec Burks seems to finally have found his niche in the league. Leading the charge is 2nd year point guard Trey Burke who is still taking his lumps, but continues to impress as a playmaker and defender. In the middle, Enes Kanter does a good job of controlling the paint and making the most of his opportunities. Off the bench, the Jazz are extremely young, but extremely flexible. They can trot out Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum (who can play all the wing positions, to include point guard), and Trevor Booker and Joe Ingles (combo forwards who aren’t afraid to let it fly from deep).

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Utah Jazz

  • PG – Trey Burke
  • SG – Alec Burks
  • SF – Gordon Hayward
  • PF – Derrick Favors
  • C – Enes Kanter

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Lance Thomas
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – The last time the Thunder met Utah, the Jazz outrebounded the Thunder 55-44. The Thunder actually won the first quarter rebounding battle 12-11, which was also the only quarter they won scoring-wise. The Thunder bigs, especially Steven Adams, have to do a better job of not only boxing out Kanter and Favors, but also trying to get offensive rebounds of their own. The Thunder grabbed 3 offensive rebounds in that first quarter which led to 3 extra points.

2. Staying in front of Trey Burke – The Thunder did a poor job of staying in front of Jazz guards in the last game. They drove into the lane at will and often found open targets that made the Thunder pay. The Thunder bigs have to do a better job of hedging into to help out guards on the PnR’s.

jackson thunder burks jazz

3. Reggie Jackson – This may be the final game that Jackson plays that the main ball-handler/offensive threat on the team. It’s been a mixed bag, but I also think that Reggie has proven himself in this time. He may not be an elite player, but he is very good and can put up some Westbrook-like numbers.

As always, thank you for the visit to my site, and I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz preview (Game 12 of 82)

hayward burke lamb jackson thunder jazz

  • 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 Opponent

Alec Burks , Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors

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

Utah Jazz

  • 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.

exum hood jazz

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.

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Northwest Divison

Northwest Division

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

westbrook ibaka durant jackson jones thunder

Last season: 59-23 (1st in the Northwest Division, 2nd in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions:

  • Mitch McGary – Draft (No. 21 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Anthony Morrow – Free agent signing
  • Sebastian Telfair – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Thabo Sefolosha – Signed with the Atlanta Hawks
  • Caron Butler – Signed with the Detroit Pistons
  • Derek Fisher – Retired (Head coach of the New York Knicks)
  • Hasheem Thabeet – Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers

Season Preview – After years of relying on internal improvement/development, the Thunder finally threw their hat into the free agency fray. They failed in getting Pau Gasol or Mike Miller to OKC, but did get the deep-range threat they coveted in Anthony Morrow. If healthy, this team is one of the best in the league. Sporting the current MVP and another top 5 players in Westbrook, the Thunder should benefit from their more versatile additions. When it comes to a team like the Thunder, though, its all about May and June. With the team’s shortcomings in the playoffs with such a talented roster, might this be the year that coach Scott Brooks starts to feel the heat?

2014-15 will be successful if: The Thunder win the championship

Projected 2014-15 Record: 61-21

2. Portland Trailblazers

aldridge batum lopez matthews lillard trailblazers

Last season: 54-28 (2nd in the Northwest Division, 5th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions:

  • Steve Blake – Free agent signing
  • Chris Kaman – Free agent signing
  • James Southerland – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Mo Williams – Signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Earl Watson – Unsigned

Season Preview – The Trailblazers basically bring back the same team as last season, but with a little bit more veteran presence. Chris Kaman and Steve Blake should help shore up some of the inexperience off the bench. With that said, the Blazers’ Achilles heel this season will be the same as last season’s: lack of bench production. Second year guard CJ Mccollum will be expected to fill the production provided by Mo Williams. They were lucky the injury bug didn’t bite that hard last season. They will need similar health next season to produce the same output.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Blazers make it to the Western Conference Finals

Projected 2014-15 Record: 52-30

3. Denver Nuggets

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets

Last season: 36-46 (4th in the Northwest Division, 11th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Arron Afflalo – Obtained in a trade with the Orlando Magic
  • Gary Harris – Draft (No. 19 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jusuf Nurkic – Draft (No. 16 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Evan Fournier – Traded to the Orlando Magic
  • Jan Vesely – Signed overseas
  • Anthony Randolph – Signed overseas
  • Aaron Brooks – Signed with the Chicago Bulls

Season Preview – I only wrote three names on the “Key Additions” section, but with half the team coming back from injury, you could easily add about 5 players to that section. Now, half the team is a bit of an exaggeration, but the players who are coming back are core members of the rotation. JaVale McGee, Danilo Galinari, JJ Hickson, and Nate Robinson all missed time last season with surgery necessitating injuries. With all those key players coming back and Kenneth Faried coming off a great showing in the FIBA World Cup, Denver becomes the wild card in the Western Conference. Two seasons ago, they were the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference with many of these players on the team. It may take Denver a bit to gel, but I could definitely see them being a nuisance come the second half of the season.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Nuggets make it to the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 40-42

4. Utah Jazz

burke hayward favors jazz

Last season: 25-57 (5th in the Northwest Division,  15th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Trevor Booker – Free agent signing
  • Dante Exum – Draft (No. 5 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Rodney Hood – Draft (No. 23 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Steve Novak – Obtained in a trade with the Toronto Raptors

Key Departures:

  • Richard Jefferson – Signed with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Marvin Williams – Signed with the Charlotte Hornets
  • Brandon Rush – Signed with the Golden State Warriors
  • Diante Garrett – Traded to the Toronto Raptors

Season Preview – The Jazz are probably at the midway point of their rebuild. Their young guys from 2-3 seasons ago are starting to come up for extensions and they have yet to show much fruit. They had to pay Gordon Hayward max money in order to keep him away from Charlotte. And their backcourt consists of a rookie (Exum) and a 2nd year player (Trey Burke). I think the Jazz take a step this season. Not necessarily a big one, but a 5-7 win improvement through the internal development of Hayward, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, and Trey Burke. Show improvement and the team probably stays the course. But, flounder again, and the team may be looking at a smaller rebuild for the future.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Jazz win 35 games

Projected 2014-15 Record: 31-51

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

"blg 04 wolves state fair"

Last season: 40-42 (3rd in the Northwest Division, 10th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Anthony Bennett – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Zach Lavine – Draft (No. 13 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Glenn Robinson III – Draft (No. 40 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Andrew Wiggins – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 1 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Mo Williams – Free agent signing
  • Thaddeus Young – Obtained in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers

Key Departures:

  • Kevin Love – Traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers
  • Alexey Shved – Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers

Season Preview – The Timberwolves seem to have a problem holding on to great power forwards. Kevin Garnett about seven years ago and Kevin Love this offseason. But they got a much better haul this time around for Love than they did for Garnett. Wiggins has franchise player potential and Bennett has match-up problems potential if he is healthy this season. Thaddeus Young is a good veteran stopgap at the forward spot, but is also young enough to grow with this group. I believe this team will surprise some people. Rubio is made to be a fast break point guard and now has the horses to let loose his talent. In the end though, this team is extremely young and will have plenty of growing pains this season. Luckily, they’ll also be exciting as hell.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Timberwolves’ young players show development throughout the season, and they still garner a Top 5 pick.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 30-52

The Stretch: The Thunder’s next 6 games

When the Oklahoma City Thunder were novices to playoff basketball, home court advantage was a must. In their first playoff series against the Lakers in 2010, the only two games the Thunder won in the series were in Oklahoma City, with a third victory being stolen by a Pau Gasol tip-in as time expired in the 4th quarter. The next season, the Thunder rode home court advantage all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the higher seeded, and eventual champions, the Dallas Mavericks. The next season, the Thunder made a repeat trip to the WCF, where the met the higher seeded San Antonio Spurs. Three years worth of playoff experience helped the Thunder weather a 2-0 deficit in the series, and they eventually went on to win the next 4 games (3 of which were in OKC) to make it to the NBA Finals.

The Thunder are experienced enough to not get phased by road playoff games. But getting the highest seed possible is more of a psychological ploy than anything else. The opportunity to not only get the first two games at home, but also the deciding game, if necessary, gives a team a little more confidence moving forward.

Do the Thunder need to get HCA throughout the playoffs? Probably not. But the Thunder aren’t yet to the point where they are willing to sacrifice late season games in order to rest their weary starters. Resting Russell Westbrook is a given due to the delicate nature of his recovery from 3 knee surgeries in an eight month period. Other than Westbrook though, I think the rest of the players are gunning for as a seeding as possible. In order to achieve that, the next 6 games will be extremely pivotal to positioning the Thunder near the top of not only the Western Conference, but also the entire league.

The Thunder were in a similar position last season, with the same cast of characters playing similar parts this season. The Thunder once again trail the Spurs, this time by 2 games. They, of course, will need some help from other teams. The Spurs play 6 games between now and their April 3rd meeting with the Thunder. The combined winning percentage of those 5 team (they play Denver twice in that span) is .482. When you factor the home/road splits compared to where the games are being played (whether in San Antonio or on the road), that percentage jumps up to .495. That’s not an easy stretch for the Spurs.

In that same stretch, the Thunder only play 4 games: a home/road back to back against Denver (tonight) and Dallas. Then they play Sacramento on Friday and Utah on Sunday. That’s basically 4 home games in that stretch, as Dallas is a 50 minute plane ride from OKC and the stands will be peppered with plenty of Thunder fans. The Denver/Dallas B2B will be difficult as both teams attack the Thunder where they are weakest (perimeter defense) and score a lot of points.

Much like last season, focus will be the key word when it comes to this stretch. The team may be on high alert when it comes to the B2B, but then may let their guard down when it comes to the Sacramento and Utah games. The Thunder have a tendency to play down to their opponents, and Utah and Sacramento can give the Thunder problems, if allowed.


One major difference between last season and this season is the injuries. Last season’s team was completely intact when it when on its stretch run. The playoffs, of course, were a different story. This season, though, the Thunder will be missing Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins for all of the stretch and likely will be missing Westbrook for some of the stretch. If I were a betting man, I’d say that Westbrook will miss the Denver game and one of the Sacto/Utah games.

Much like last season, the Thunder will get a 3-day break before the Spurs game. And then, they will hit the road for another game the next night, this time against the Houston Rockets. Luckily for the Thunder, it’ll be easy to get up for both of these games. The question is whether Westbrook will be available for both of these games.

If the Spurs stay true to form, they’ll start to rest their core on differing night beginning in April. If the Thunder are able to take the conference lead and maintain, they should be able to repeat what they did last season. And this time, not only is the number one seed in the conference at stake, but also the number one seed heading into the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets preview (Game 36 of 82)

perkins faried thunder nuggets

  • When: Thursday, 09 January 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

In my opinion, this game has a bit of a must win feel to it for some reason. Maybe it’s to calm our psyche. Maybe it’s the constant pressure of needing to keep up with the top half of the Western Conference. Whatever it may be, that psyche was put a little on edge after the loss to the Utah Jazz, who own the worst record in the Western Conference. Were there factors at play that may have aided the Jazz? Of course. Two of Oklahoma City’s top three players were out when Serge Ibaka sat out with flu-like symptoms. And Utah has been playing much better since the return of Trey Burke. But still, it’s the Jazz.

Regardless, the NBA season keeps moving along. Tonight, the Thunder face their other division rival located in the Mountain Standard timezone, the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder won the first two meetings of the season between these two teams. The first meeting saw the Thunder outscore the Nuggets 32-21 in the 4th quarter to win a close one, 115-113. The 2nd game was not as close as the Thunder rode an 8 point halftime lead to a 12 point victory, 105-93.

The Opponent

faried lawson nuggets

The Nuggets have been consistently inconsistent this season. This is how their last 24 games have played out: 7 game win streak followed by losses in 11 of the next 14 games followed by the current 3 game win streak. They are a team that is highly dependent on the 3-point shot without having a consistent dead-eye shooter. Point guard Ty Lawson gets the offense going with his ability to dribble penetrate off the pick and role. Randy Foye and Wilson Chandler have greatly benefited from Lawson’s dribble drives to the tune of 35% 3-point shooting for each player. Unfortunately, Chandler will be out of tonight’s game with a strained hip. Despite their lack of size, the duo of JJ Hickson and Kenneth Faried grabs about 16.5 rebounds per game combined, and can wear a front line ragged with their energy and athleticism. Injuries and internal strife have decimated the depth of the Nuggets and turn what used to be one of the Nuggets’ biggest strengths into one of their liabilities.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Randy Foye
  • SF – Jordan Hamilton
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – JJ Hickson

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Pick and roll defense – Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson are great at breaking down a defense at the point of attack from the pick and role. If a defender goes under the pick, the two guards are able to punish the defenders with their shooting (over 35% 3-point shooting for both guards). If a defender tries to go over, both guards are quick enough to get past the initial line of defense. Luckily, the Denver big men aren’t great shooters, so the Thunder big men should be able to ice the picks if they happen from the free throw line and up.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets

2. Bench scoring – Injuries to JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler, along with the “suspended/awaiting to be traded” Andre Miller, have decimated the depth the Nuggets once had. The Thunder bench struggled in the last game against the Jazz, so I expect them to come out focused and ready to attack.

3. Thin air – Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson probably played more minutes than they expected on Tuesday, and appeared a bit winded near the end of the game. It will be interesting to see what happens if this becomes a competitive affair and the game minutes go into the upper 30’s to lower 40’s.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz preview (Game 35 of 82)

durant hayward favors ibaka thunder jazz

  • When: Tuesday, 07 January 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

Two up. Two down. Two up. There are just some teams you look forward to facing, especially when you need an easy victory. The Boston Celtics were a welcome sight on Sunday. And the same could be said about the Utah Jazz tonight. With the Thunder looking to solidify their footing in the Western Conference while awaiting the return of Russell Westbrook, facing teams like Boston and Utah makes life that much easier for the team as they trudge along without their star point guard.

This is the 3rd meeting of the season between these division rivals. The Thunder won the first game, 101-98, behind 42 points from Kevin Durant. The 2nd game was much more one-sided with the Thunder winning 95-73. The common denominator in both games was that Russell Westbrook was inactive for both, with him recovering from surgery in the first game and resting in the second meeting.

The Opponent

favors williams hayward jazz

The Utah Jazz are a bad team, either by design or by happenstance. They currently sit at 11-25 and are in the bottom third of most statistical categories. It’s no secret that Utah is currently in a rebuilding phase. Their core consists of young players who are still learning the nuances of the game. Rookie point guard Trey Burke is starting to show flashes of what made him the National Player of the Year in college basketball last season. Gordon Hayward is their leading scorer at 16.5 points per game and has started to get his game back after starting the season abysmally. Up front, Derrick Favors is close to averaging a double double, while Enes Kanter has fallen out of the starting line-up and is one of the key reserves off the bench.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Utah Jazz

  • PG – Trey Burke
  • SG – Gordon Hayward
  • SF – Richard Jefferson
  • PF – Marvin Williams
  • C – Derrick Favors

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF -Perry Jones III
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

Serge Ibaka is out with flu-like symptoms. 

3 Keys to the Game

1. Small ball – Utah trots out a starting line-up that basically features a point guard, 3 small forwards, and a power forward. This may be one of those games where the strengths of Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams are marginalized. If Scott Brooks decides to keep a traditional line-up in the game for too much time, it may come back to bite the Thunder in the rear.

lamb burks thunder jazz

2. Bench – Utah’s bench, like it’s team, is loaded with young developing players. While the Thunder’s is also filled with young player, I think there’s enough veteran leadership off the Thunder’s bench to take advantage of the Jazz’s youth off the pine.

3. That man Kevin – Kevin Durant has been on a tear lately and Utah doesn’t really have any one that can cover him. Feast Kevin, and hopefully, enjoy the 4th quarter on the bench.