Jazz vs Thunder Game 1: Preview and Prediction

Russell Westbrook
Expect Russell Westbrook to be in attack mode all game long against the Rockets. Photo by Erik Drost (Flickr) [CC License]
  • The Jazz and Thunder’s contrasting lineups clash in Game 1
  • Is Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell ready for primetime?
  • Russell Westbrook will show up – what teammate will help him lead the Thunder?

It’s by far one of the most intriguing pairings in the NBA’s First Round, and Game 1 kicks off Sunday in Oklahoma City, as the fourth-seeded Thunder (48-34, 27-14 home) host the fifth-seeded Utah Jazz (48-34, 20-21 away).

The Thunder are star powered, led by Mr. Triple-Double himself, Russell Westbrook, and a star-studded supporting cast led by Paul George, Steven Adams and Carmelo Anthony. They are, by any measure, a team to be reckoned with in the postseason.

Utah is anchored by perhaps the most dominant defensive big man in basketball in Rudy Gobert, a mish mash of good-at-everything-but-not-great-at-anything supporting players, and a budding superstar in Donovan Mitchell. They are, by any measure, a team to be reckoned with in the postseason.

In any other year, this type of matchup doesn’t even materialize until the second round, or perhaps the conference championship. That’s how good these teams are, and just one exhibit of the blood bath that is the Western Conference.

Utah Jazz vs Oklahoma City Thunder Regular Season  Team Stats

OFFENSE

Jazz
VS
Thunder

106.2 Offensive Rating 107.6
104.1 Points 107.9
22.4 Assists 21.3
46.2 Field-Goal Percentage 45.3
36.6 Three-Point Percentage 35.4
+4.3 Plus/Minus +3.4

DEFENSE

Jazz
VS
Thunder

101.6 Defensive Rating 104.7
99.8 Points 104.4
+1.7 Rebounding Differential +2.9
-0.4 Turnover Differential -1.7
44.9 Field-Goal Percentage 45.8
36.5 Three-Point Percentage 36.7
44.4 Points In The Paint 43.9

Head-to-Head Results – Regular Season

Date Location Score Winner
Oct. 22 UTAH 96-87 UTAH
Dec. 6 OKC 100-94 OKC
Dec. 20 OKC 107-97 OKC
Dec. 23 UTAH 103-89 OKC

In these regular season meetings, Russ was Russ and that was usually the difference. He averaged nearly 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Thunder rolled to a 3-1 season series record. But you’ll need to take into account that all these games were played before Christmas.

That loss was part a swoon for the Jazz, where they lost six of seven. But from January 10th to the end of the year, Utah ripped through the league on a 32-10 run.

Notable Injuries and Absences

Jazz Thunder
No Injured Players Corey Brewer (knee): QUESTIONABLE
Alex Abrines (concussion): QUESTIONABLE

 Straight Up Advice: Jazz (106-103)

This may not be a popular pick, but there are few teams as hot as the Jazz right now. This is a bet on their defense being strong enough to withstand OKC’s 107-plus points per game. Utah is one of two teams in the Association to hold the opposition under 100 points a game – San Antonio is the other.

One of the Thunder’s great strengths is their offensive rebounding – they led the league at over 11 offensive boards a game. But Utah is one of the very best at limiting that number – they held teams to just eight a game all season. That lack of extra possessions is going to mean something.

Expect Westbrook to be his usual bombastic self, but Paul George will be busy chasing around Mitchell. Who else finds their offensive rhythm for the Thunder? Steven Adams will have his hands full with Gobert. Has Carmelo been waiting to break out Hoodie/Olympic ‘Melo now?

The Jazz have one of the best in-game coaching tacticians at the helm

The Jazz have one of the best in-game coaching tacticians at the helm, and Quin Snyder should find his team good looks on offense, while funeling Westbrook into the shot-blocking Frenchman Gobert on defense. That will force OKC to make shots from beyond the arc, where they ranked just 24th in the regular season.

Gobert will control the paint, while Mitchell defies the supposed rookie playoff struggles. The Jazz prove they are for real with a mini-stunner in Game 1.

 Team Trends – Regular Season

Jazz Thunder
Utah is 20-21 SU on the road Oklahoma City is 27-14 SU at home
Utah is 7-3 SU in its last ten games Oklahoma City  is 5-5 SU in its last ten games
Utah is 34-18 SU in conference games Oklahoma City is 28-24-0 SU in conference games
Utah is 14-19-0 ATS after a loss Oklahoma City is 20-27-0 ATS after a win
Utah is 42-40-0 ATS this season (51.2%) Oklahoma City is 34-47-1 ATS this season (42.0%)
Utah is 21-20-0 ATS on the road Oklahoma City is 16-24-1 ATS at home 

Additional SU Picks (April 15th)

The NBA Playoffs are in full swing, with four series kicking off Sunday, including King James beginning his quest for an eighth straight trip to the Finals.

 Match-Up SU Pick
Bucks vs Celtics – Game 1 Celtics
Pacers vs Cavaliers – Game 1 Cavaliers
Wizards vs Raptors – Game 1 Raptors

 

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Vancouver born and bred, Eric is a print and broadcast journalism graduate now based in TO. His current project involves getting his wife to join him on the couch this fall to watch football on Sundays from 1pm kickoff till the Sunday night game expires.