Two members of the Western Conference upper class clash tonight as the 37-22 Utah Jazz are on the road to the 34-25 Oklahoma City Thunder (8pm ET Tuesday). Both squads have plenty of momentum, with three consecutive wins each, and will aim to continue those streaks.
Utah’s defense is rolling right now. The team has allowed 95 points or fewer in four consecutive contests, which is extremely impressive given the league average is more than 10 points higher than that number.
The Thunder, despite recently trading for Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, are still very reliant on MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has refused to tail off from his insane triple-double pace and is currently averaging 31.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game.
These two teams have split the season series so far with both games being played in Utah. The Jazz won the first contest back in December by a score of 109-89 and then lost 95-97 on January 24.
So now our preview works out which way it will fall for this third meeting before deciding on our betting predictions and picks for the game.
Which Pace Will Prevail?
The Jazz play the slowest pace in the league. They do best when they can defend opponents in the half court, with their excellent length and strength. Not coincidentally, the squad also allows the second-fewest fast break points in the NBA.
Russell Westbrook and his Thunder have other plans. OKC gets 16.0 percent of its points from the fast break, which ranks No. 3 in the NBA. The Thunder are a very athletic team and their No. 1 priority is to score points before the defense can get itself set up.
Utah must do its best to get back in transition quickly, while the Thunder must hope for long defensive rebounds and assertiveness from their players on the fast break.
Will the Thunder Newcomers Contribute?
There’s a special energy in NBA arenas when recently-acquired players hit the floor. Crowds cheer a little bit louder when their team’s newcomers make a nice play to welcome them to the team.
Oklahoma City will be playing its third game with Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott on Tuesday, but neither guy has had a huge game with the Thunder yet. The Chesapeake Arena faithful will be even louder than usual if Gibson, McDermott or both have a big game.
Keep in mind that home court advantage has played a big role in Oklahoma City’s season. The Thunder are 22-8 on their floor and their support system could be even better than normal today.
Can Gordon Hayward Have a Good Game Despite Andre Roberson’s Defense?
The Jazz’s Hayward is one of the best offensive small forwards in the NBA. Andre Roberson (pictured) of the Thunder is one of the best defensive small forwards in the NBA. Something is going to give.
Surprisingly enough, Hayward’s performance has been a pretty good barometer for Utah’s success, even though he is the star player expected to perform well every night. In wins, he averages 25.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists per 36 minutes with a true-shooting percentage of 63.9 and a player efficiency rating of 27.0. In losses, those numbers fall to 19.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per 36 minutes with a true-shooting percentage of 53.3 and a PER of 15.9.
Roberson has great length and instincts. He also allocates a very high percentage of his energy to the defensive side of the ball. Hayward won’t get many easy shots when Roberson is on the floor, so he will have to be playing at the top of his game to turn in a good performance.
Our Preview’s Utah Jazz vs Oklahoma City Thunder Betting Picks & Predictions
Westbrook will have to turn in an excellent performance and get plenty of points in transition against this elite half-court defense for Utah.
And while Hayward playing well is key, the Jazz have more options that can pick up the slack if he’s playing poorly. That’s more than I can say about the non-Westbrook Thunder, especially with Gibson and McDermott still acclimating themselves.
- The USA online bookies have this game’s spread as even (so the spread effectively becomes the moneyline) though one has OKC as 1pt favorite. Oklahoma City has been dominant at home this season, but I consider the healthy Jazz as a deeper and better team defensively. It will be close, but I would pick Utah +1pt @ -115 with BetOnline.
- The most common over-under for the total points for this matchup is 204. Games involving the Jazz have not topped this number in the last four contests. Since I expect them to force their preferred slow pace on the Thunder, I don’t think tonight will be any different. Bet the under 204pts @ -110 with BetOnline, MyBookie or 5Dimes.