NBA Basketball Matchup: Thunder vs Jazz
The recently red-hot Utah Jazz will play host to an Oklahoma City Thunder team that despite handing the Jazz five straight losses, will look to get back on the rails by stringing together two wins for the first time since early March when the teams meet on Tuesday in Salt Lake City.
Date/Time: 9:00 PM ET, Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Venue: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
Broadcast: ROOT Sports
Spread: OKC -3
The Thunder (34-11) appear to have run out of steam, alternating wins and losses in their last six outings, while losing their footing atop the Western Conference.
They did however, rebound nicely after a huge loss to San Antonio by beating the Portland Trail Blazers 111-95 on Sunday.
Leading scorer Kevin Durant had 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Russell Westbrook scored 28 as Oklahoma City ended a two-game home slide attacking the rim and getting to the foul line 28 times, making 18.
That was a stark contrast to the 66 shots the Thunder attempted from the charity stripe in the prior three games.
Oklahoma City shot 53 percent and made 11-of-18 from downtown versus the Blazers, a place they have been quite busy lately, launching 91 attempts in the same 3-game span.
Meanwhile, the Jazz have won three straight, including a 103-99 victory over the Lakers, and are now above .500. [soliloquy id=”82219″]
Forward Paul Millsap has been the constant force for Utah, averaging 16.6 points and 10.2 rebounds over his last five games, including 24 points and nine rebounds versus LA. He also dished out five assists in the win, and now has averaged four assists in the last five outings.
Another contributor in the win over LA was Alec Burks, who came off the bench to hit some big shots in the fourth quarter.
The win moved Utah (23-22) within one-half game of the Houston Rockets (24-22) for the No. 8 spot in the West.
The Jazz are 17-6 at home, but the Thunder have won eight of the past 10 meetings with the Utah, including two wins in February. Oklahoma City won those games by an average margin of 20 points.
Free Pick: Oklahoma City–
Both teams are evenly matched statistically, but the biggest difference will be the return of the Thunders’ Thabo Sefolosha, which is bigger than the average fan realizes, giving OKC a solid fourth option and another effective outside shooter.
Without Earl Watson, Al Jefferson and Raja Bell, Utah remains thin, which will likely result in a fourth quarter fade.