The Western Conference playoff race is starting to heat up, and the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz are right in the thick of it. Oklahoma City is trying to sneak into the top three in the Western Conference, while the Jazz are making a run towards the top-four. This could be a potential first-round playoff matchup, just as it was a season ago.
The Thunder come into this game with a record of 40-26 and are holding on to the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City has struggled since the All-Star Break, winning just two of their previous eight games. The Jazz have gone 5-2 in their last seven games, and are trying to climb up the standings. Utah sits in sixth place in the West with a record of 37-28. Utah is -3.5 over Oklahoma City in this game.
Thunder Looking For Answers on Defense
Oklahoma City doesn’t have any trouble scoring the ball, but their defense has been letting them down of late. The Thunder are only giving up 111.5 points per game this season, but that number has gone up of late. Oklahoma City just can’t stop fouling, and it has cost their stars plenty of playing time. Paul George is still one of the best defensive players in the league, averaging 2.2 steals per game.
Speaking of George, he is having a monster season on the offensive end of the floor in support of Russell Westbrook. George is averaging a team-high 28.4 points per game and is hitting some monster shots for the Thunder. Westbrook is averaging another triple-double this season, including a team-high 11.1 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game. If Paul and Westbrook can stay on the floor, then they are tough to stop.
Jazz Still Needing More Offense
If the Utah Jazz are going to take the next step as a franchise, they are going to have to start scoring more points. The Jazz are averaging just 110.2 points per game this season, and that is well below league average. Utah has been one of the best defensive teams in the NBA this season, allowing just 106.9 points per game. The Jazz can shut down any opponent, but at some point, they are going to have to score.
Shooting guard Donovan Mitchell has been the main man on offense for the Jazz this season, leading the team with 23.5 points per game. Mitchell will face a tough matchup against Westbrook and George in this game. Veteran center Rudy Gobert has been terrific of late for Utah, chipping in with 15.4 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. The Jazz are still looking for more contributions from their bench, but they do have a pair of stars.
Thunder Get Road Win
Winning in Utah has been a problem for Oklahoma City of late, but this Thunder team is one of the most talented in the league. The Jazz can defend at an elite level, but their lack of offense will hurt them in this game. Look for the Thunder to get rolling on offense in cruising to a nice road win. Take the points and bet the Oklahoma City Thunder +3.5 over the Utah Jazz.